Sandström, C. (2016). The non-disruptive emergence of an Ecosystem for 3D Printing – Insights from the Hearing aid industry’s transition 1989-2008. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 102, 160-168. DOI: 10.1016/j.techfore.2015.09.006

Abstract: 3D Printing technologies have received extensive attention in recent years, but empirical investigations of how this technology is used for manufacturing are still sparse. More knowledge is also needed regarding how 3D Printing affects the competitive dynamics between firms. This article explores how 3D Printing has been adopted for manufacturing and discusses under what conditions it might influence competition in different industries. Drawing upon data from the global hearing aid industry’s adoption of 3D Printing during the period 1989-2008, this paper describes some of the benefits of using the technology, while also pointing out challenges firms encounter in making a transition. The study shows that early adopters were exposed to more technological uncertainty related to choosing printers. All firms encountered operational challenges as 3D Printing required new skill sets, but the technology had little impact on the competitive dynamics of this industry. Drawing upon literature on technological discontinuities, platforms and ecosystems, the paper illustrates and explains why the technology was not disruptive and also discusses how these findings apply to other industries where 3D Printing is currently gaining momentum.