The sharing economy principle applied to additive manufacturing

The sharing economy principle can be defined as a peer-to-peer (P2P) based activity of acquiring, providing, or sharing access to goods and services that is often facilitated by a community-based on-line platform.

In the additive manufacturing, a similar concept is seen through distributed manufacturing networks. With additive manufacturing systems worldwide, manufacturers enable their customers to take advantage of the facility that is based in their region – understand near the final delivery address of their product – to cut down on delivery time and shipping costs.

This increasingly adopted production approach sometimes requires other technologies such as blockchain to secure the manufacturing processes.

First illustrations of this principle in the AM industry are observed online with open-source technologies. Zortrax for instance recently opened up its software to LCD 3D Printers. Italian manufacturer Wasp also shared a more recent example with the release of its open source 3D modeling software to 3D orthopedic prints.

So, how do they consist in?

A distributed manufacturing network aka shared fabrication for others, consists in sharing knowledge, materials and processes between teams that are not necessarily based in the same country.

Wash shared another example with the launch of their 3D printing service network. Called Wasp Hubs, there are 13 around the world and well aware of the possibility to work together.

Arthur Mamou-Mani (WASP Hub London), for instance, manufactured the architectural installation Conifera – COS for the Milan Design Week 2019. It took two months to achieve the whole masterpiece with 700 modules in bioplastic and recycled plastic of about half a cubic meter each, all of them 3D printed on the Delta WASP 3MT Industrial 4.0.

The Milan, Venice and Macerata’s Italian WASP Hubs, connected to the London’s one, started a colossal cooperation job, completing the project with great success and demonstrating the value and effectiveness of the WASP Hub network.

Today, based on the knowledge shared, any 3D Printing company is able to reproduce the structure.

So far, this principle has proven its success in various industries. However, in the additive manufacturing industry, we often talk about projects that require big investments at the production level. Therefore, is it always profitable? Can one company only rely on the sharing economy principle in its core business?

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