The barriers to the progression of additive manufacture: perspectives from UK industry

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Additive manufacture (AM) is receiving significant attention globally, reflected in the volume of research being carried out to support the commercialisation of the technology for industrial applications and the interest shown by government and policy makers in the technology. The lack of distinction between 3D printing and AM, as well as the portrayal of some highly publicised applications, may imply that the technology is now firmly established. However, this is not the case. The aim of this study is to identify the current barriers to the progression of AM for end-use products from an industrial perspective and to understand the nature of those barriers. Case study research has been conducted with organisations in the UK aerospace, automotive, defence, heavy machinery and medical device industries. Eighteen barriers are identified: education, cost, design, software, materials, traceability, machine constraints, in-process monitoring, mechanical properties, repeatability, scalability, validation, standards, quality, inspection, tolerances, finishing and sterilisation. Explanation building and logic models are used to generalise the findings. The results are discussed in the context of current academic research on AM. The outcomes of this study help to inform the frontiers of research in AM and how AM research agendas can be aligned with the requirements for industrial applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-118
JournalInternational Journal of Production Economics
Early online date6 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • 3D printing
  • case study research
  • additive layer manufacture
  • aerospace
  • automotive
  • biomedical


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