Recent works on 3D printing and digital manufacturing have highlighted the transformative effects of these technologies. In particular, these technologies make it easier for consumers to collaborate with companies and between each other and eventually to practice open innovation.
As 3D printing technologies provide possibilities for users to start producing goods at home (Eyers and Potter, 2015), many of them could be expected to become prosumers (Rayna et al., 2015). For example consumers can now scan objects, transform digital data into physical objects, and consequently remix physical products in order to achieve any degree of personalisation (Rindfleisch, forthcoming).
In addition to becoming prosumers, users also become co-creators (Rayna et al., 2015), by both co-designing and co-manufacturing items with companies. In addition to co-creating with companies, consumers also use 3D printing technologies to co-create with other consumers. The early adopters of 3D printing support sharing mentality, they share their designs via online platforms, post videos with their progress on video-sharing sites and share their experience on online forums (Kietzmann et al., 2015).
Though it clear that 3D printing can be potentially use by customers to create with companies and each other, it is not yet clear whether potential issues with IPR might prevent it from becoming an adopted open innovation phenomenon.
The paper seeks to investigate challenges that could be posed by 3D printing in relation to IPRs and the consequences of these challenges on companies abilities to practice open innovation with customers.
The horizon scanning format for the workshop was developed by the project team and comprised three parts: the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) to establish past and present trends and a combination of Ideal Futures scenario constructing and backcasting to scan the horizon. The benefit of the fusion of these methodologies is a multi-dimensional appraisal of foreseeable trends across different countries at different scales.
In order to understand more fully the development of 3D printing in different locations, especially in emerging and non-Western economies, its relationship with IP law and practice, and how this relationship may change in the future, authors conducted qualitative focus-group style horizon scanning workshops with experts from the 3D printing ecosystem during 2017 and 2018. To test the methodology, they conducted a pilot workshop in Brisbane (Australia). Based on feedback from the participants and facilitators, they refined the methodology before employing it in six full workshops in the following locations: Moscow (Russia), Rorkee (India), Singapore, Shenzhen (China), Paris (France) and London (UK). The workshops comprised between five and fifteen experts in each location who were selected because of their experience in 3D printing and associated industries and/or IP law and practice. The aim was to get participants comprising a cross-section of different actors in the 3D printing/IP ecosystem, including across a range of industries.
One of the findings of this research is that 3D printing is likely to be used combination with other emerging technology: e.g. artificial intelligence, blockchain, etc. This future development is likely to complicate intellectual property matters even further. However, results of the study also allow us to argue that as past waves of digitisation have demonstrated, what appear first as pressing IP issues (e.g. piracy of music and videos) can be resolved by changes in company's business model, including open innovation practices with consumers.
Contribution to Scholarship
The papers contributed to three fields of literature: first of all it contributes to the discourse of open innovation and IP, secondly we contribute to the literature on business model innovation and finally we contribute to the scarce literature on 3D printing.
Contribution to Practice
In none of the countries examined does 3D printing appear to be posing fundamental challenges in practice to IP at the current moment in time. Nevertheless, some country-specific issues were identified. Industry at large however should not be left alone with the daunting task of adopting their business model to these new challenges.
This paper fits very well the general theme of the conference
Eyers, D.R. and Potter, A.T. (2015). E-commerce channels for additive manufacturing: an exploratory study, Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, vol. 26 no. 3, pp. 390-411.
Kietzmann, J., L. Pitt and Berthon, P. (2015). Disruptions, decisions, and destinations: Enter the age of 3-D printing and additive manufacturing, Business Horizons, vol. 58, pp. 209-215.
Rayna, T., Striukova, L., Darlington, J, (2015). Co-creation and User Innovation: The Role of Online 3D Printing Platforms, Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 2015, vol. 37, July–Sep., pp. 90–102.
Rindfleisch, A., O’Hern, M. and Sachdev, V. (forthcoming) “The Digital Revolution, 3D Printing, and Innovation as Data”, Journal of Product Innovation Management.