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The non-disruptive emergence of an Ecosystem for 3D Printing

PublicationArticle (with peer review)
Christian Sandström, Disruptiva innovationer, Företagandets villkor

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.

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

Based on content

High-end disruptive technologies with an inferior performance
Article (with peer review)Publication
Sandström, C.
Publication year

2011

Published in

International Journal of Technology Management

Abstract

The literature on disruptive technologies has previously stated that those innovations often emerge in low-end segments or in new markets and as the performance improves it eventually displaces the old technology. This article aims to explain how and why a technology may prosper in high-end or mainstream markets despite its initially lower performance and does so through three in-depth case studies. The findings suggest that those technologies may compensate the inferior performance by simplifying and removing work for customers. For instance, digital imaging emerged in high-end segments since these customers were willing to trade-off the initially lower image quality in order to remove the usage of film. Based upon these results, the paper concludes that the literature on disruptive technologies needs to maintain a more nuanced view of value and how it is created and distributed inside the customer’s organisation.

Hasselblad and the Shift to Digital Imaging
Article (with peer review)Publication
Sandström, C.
Publication year

2011

Abstract

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the high-end Swedish camera manufacturer Hasselblad struggled to integrate its product lines with emerging digital imaging technology. Hasselblad’s history illustrates how digital technology emerges in various high-end niche applications and later enters the mainstream markets and displaces incumbents. The Hasselblad case exemplifies how incumbent firms encounter difficulties when such technologies render their skills and products obsolete.

Facit and the displacement of mechanical calculators
Article (with peer review)Publication
Sandström, C.
Publication year

2013

Published in
Abstract

This article explains why Facit, a Swedish manufacturer of mechanical calculators, typewriters, and office furniture, collapsed in the shift from mechanical to electronic calculators in the early 1970s. Facit struggled to develop its own electronic calculators because its competencies were related to mechanics rather than electronics. Because the firm was located in a small company town in Sweden, it was difficult for Facit to access skilled labor related to electronics. Also, a lot of firms entered the industry with the shift to electronics and the increased competitive rivalry further augmented Facit’s problems. The rapid development of integrated circuits in 1967-1972 implied that all these structural changes happened in a short period of time, putting firms such as Facit in a problematic situation.

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