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The direct digital manufacturing (r)evolution: definition of a research agenda


  • Jan Holmström

    () (Aalto University)

  • Matthias Holweg

    () (University of Oxford)

  • Siavash H. Khajavi

    () (Aalto University)

  • Jouni Partanen

    () (Aalto University)


Abstract Direct digital manufacturing, or ‘3D printing’ as it is more commonly known, offers a wealth of opportunities for product and process innovation, and is often touted to ‘revolutionize’ today’s manufacturing operations and its associated supply chains structures. Despite a growing number of successful 3D printing applications, however, evidence of any displacement of traditional manufacturing is limited. In this paper we seek to separate hype surrounding DDM from economic reality in order to ground the future research agenda for the Operations Management field. By opposing direct digital manufacturing with traditional tool-based manufacturing, we show that direct digital manufacturing so far lags behind by several orders of magnitude compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Yet we also find that direct digital manufacturing clearly is on an improvement trajectory that eventually will see it being able to compete with traditional manufacturing on a unit cost basis. As such we conclude that direct digital manufacturing will increasingly challenge operations management researchers to question established practices such as scheduling, batch sizing and inventory management in low-volume, high-variety contexts. Furthermore, an increasing adoption of direct digital manufacturing will drive structural shifts in the supply chain that are not yet well understood. We summarize these challenges by defining the research agenda at factory, supply chain, and operations strategy level.

Suggested Citation

  • Jan Holmström & Matthias Holweg & Siavash H. Khajavi & Jouni Partanen, 2016. "The direct digital manufacturing (r)evolution: definition of a research agenda," Operations Management Research, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 1-10, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:opmare:v:9:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1007_s12063-016-0106-z
    DOI: 10.1007/s12063-016-0106-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mellor, Stephen & Hao, Liang & Zhang, David, 2014. "Additive manufacturing: A framework for implementation," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 194-201.
    2. Olhager, Jan, 2003. "Strategic positioning of the order penetration point," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(3), pages 319-329, September.
    3. Weller, Christian & Kleer, Robin & Piller, Frank T., 2015. "Economic implications of 3D printing: Market structure models in light of additive manufacturing revisited," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 43-56.
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    1. repec:eee:tefoso:v:128:y:2018:i:c:p:22-35 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:tefoso:v:132:y:2018:i:c:p:18-25 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:spr:scient:v:113:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11192-017-2500-1 is not listed on IDEAS


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