After two months at the University of Cambridge researching 3D printing I would like to share some observations with you. They are based upon my studies thus far of how the hearing aid industry adopted it for producing hearing aid shells in the period 1999-2007:
1) The shift didn’t cause any change in the competitive dynamics between entrants and incumbents, or between the big players, which is actually precisely what theory would suggest.
2) In contrast to what e.g. The Economist has stated regarding how 3D Printing would bring back manufacturing to the west, it has rather sparked a wave of offshoring in the hearing aid industry.
3) The firms adopting later may have received a cost advantage vis-à-vis pioneers, who at times encountered challenges as the technology was still not entirely ready.
4) Yes, 3D Printing has opened up for entirely new innovation opportunities.
5) These opportunities have not been fully exploited yet. Strategic and organizational aspects seem to be the main explanations for this.
I will post updates on this blog as my research progresses.