Emergent product design practices in the era of Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D Printing, is a family of manufacturing technologies that build physical artefacts by adding material layer by layer. AM can make shapes that would be impossible or at least very difficult with traditional manufacturing methods. AM capabilities include shape complexity, multi-materials, on-demand production, personalisation and 4D Printing. Recent years have witnessed the emergence of end-use products manufactured via AM, and this is likely to grow in the future.

AM capabilities are transformative for product design in many ways, but especially because they remove the traditional barriers of upfront investment in tooling that mark the end of the design process and the start of production. This can allow professional designers to change their designs endlessly without a clear end to the design process or a final design.

As in craftsmanship or software development, each iteration of the product can become a new improved version of the previous. So, the sequential structure of product versions can disappear and be replaced by a continuous design flow of potentially unique or personalised products with new, improved or simply different functions or aesthetics. This can bring great opportunities but also many questions and challenges.

For instance, some emerging questions are: