3D printing, makerspaces and innovation:a bricolage perspective


The aim of this research is to understand how 3D printing is used by independent innovators, in the context of makerspaces, to generate innovations. 3D printing refers to digital fabrication technologies that are increasingly affordable and accessible. Makerspaces allow communities of individuals to share access to such technologies, learn to use them and to develop their social capital. The objectives of the research are 1) to understand the motivations of innovators who use 3D printing and makerspaces; and 2) to explain the role that 3D printing and makerspaces can play in commercial innovation. The study presents case research involving individual innovators who were identified through ethnographic fieldwork in a number of makerspaces. The research draws on theory in the area of bricolage – an approach to innovation that emphasises experimentation, improvisation and networking to overcome resource-constraints. We find evidence that makerspace users adopt such an approach, for example accessing technologies and knowledge. And we demonstrate how 3D printing is used to produce non-standard parts that are combined with available components, when required resources are out of reach. This research contributes to knowledge and practice, by showing that 3D printing is used to fill gaps, by creating non-standard or otherwise unobtainable parts, in combination with other available resources. Makerspaces help innovators to overcome their resource constraints, but also play a crucial role in sharing knowledge, to help individuals innovate. The implications for practice centre on the innovative potential for product innovation to follow the approaches that are now standard in software development – the research therefore illuminates the changing role of innovation in the digital age.

Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Operations & Information Management
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School
Additional Information: © 2019 The Authors Funding: We acknowledge the support of the British Academy and Leverhulme for funding, provided under the Small Research Grant scheme (SRG\171063).
Event Type: Other
Event Dates: 2019-06-10 - 2019-06-11
PURE Output Type: Conference contribution
Published Date: 2019-06-11
Accepted Date: 2019-06-01
Authors: Beltagui, Ahmad (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-2687-0971)
Sesis, Achilleas
Stylos, Nikolaos



Version: Accepted Version

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