Är 3D Printing en Industriell Revolution?

På ESBRIs föreläsningsserie Estrad, föreläste jag den 1:e oktober om huruvida 3D Printing är en industriell revolution eller inte. Detta gjordes med utgångspunkt i min egen kartläggning av hörapparatsindustrins övergång till att använda tekniken för tillverkning av snäckor.

Föreläsningen kan ses på Esbris hemsida, här.

EFN Web TV gjorde en intervju, den kan ses här.

Tidningen Ingenjören skrev också om föreläsningen här.

Disruption and Social Media – Entrant firms as institutional entrepreneurs

Recently, Christofer Laurell, who is presently working at Stockholm University, got an article published in International Journal of Innovation Management. The paper discusses the disruptive impact of social media and draws upon an extensive analysis of blog content in fashion journalism.

The abstract can be found below:

“Technological change often leads to competitive turbulence in established industries. Little is known about how the introduction of social media affects incumbent and entrant firms. This paper explores the impact of social media on the fashion journalism industry. Our findings show that entrant fashion bloggers have toppled incumbent fashion journalists. Through a netnographic analysis of published blog content, we argue that entrants have become dominant by transforming the profession of fashion journalism and in doing so, they have acted as institutional entrepreneurs. We argue that entrants are less bound by established institutional practices and that their ability to redefine the dominant logic of an industry can explain why they have outperformed incumbents.”

The full paper can be found here

The Chandlerian University

Had lunch yesterday with MSc thesis workers studying how online education is emerging in the United States. They brilliantly summarized their thoughts so far, coining the term ‘The Chandlerian university’. Alfred Chandler was an economic historian, perhaps most famous for his descriptions of the modern mid 20th century western corporation (e.g. GM, Du Pont, ITT Industries). The Chandlerian firm was large, vertically integrated and often diversified into a wide range of business areas. Enjoying economies of scale and scope they faced little competition for several decades. Then came containers, East Asian economies entered the scene, financial markets were deregulated, digital technology gained momentum, putting the Chandlerian firm in an awkward position from the 1980s and onwards. Wild diversification came to an end, we saw vertical disintegration, reduced entry barriers, low cost competition and ended up in today’s industrial turmoil.

Universities as we know them have been very similar to the Chandlerian firm. Diversified, vertically integrated machine bureaucracies that faced limited competition and little incentive to change. Are the same forces that destroyed the mid 20th century corporation going to upset the educational system? With everything being available online, we might see vertical disintegration, lower barriers to entry, the emergence of new players and competitive turbulence over the coming years.

Higher education is in many countries a regulated monopolies. Digital technology has torn down many government monopolies over the past three decades: gambling, TV, radio, telecommunications, financial markets, etc. Why would higher education be an exception?

3D Printing of Hearing Aids at Widex, Denmark

This Thursday I visited the Danish hearing aid manufacturer Widex to see some of their 3D Printing of shells. Klaus Vaarbroe at Widex has developed Widex’ 3D Printing process over the past 11 years. He was very hospitable, showed me around and explained the different steps: order intake, scanning, modeling, printing, mounting and polishing. He also shared some images of the process (the first three pictures below).

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With 3D Printing instead of manual labor, 50 percent of the previous workforce is now doing four times as much work – an eight fold productivity increase in Widex’ manufacturing of hearing aid shells. It should also be pointed out that the quality of 3D Printed shells is substantially higher.

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Widex headquarter, in Lynge, north of Copenhagen, Denmark.

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An old Hearing aid shell that was produced using Selective Laser Sintering (a form of 3D Printing) back in the early 2000s, a technology that was eventually rejected by Widex and the other hearing aid manufacturers.

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Widex was just recently received the European Patent Award for having patented the use of 3D Printing to make hearing aid shells.

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3D Printing and the Hearing Aid industry

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.

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