Breaking the mould: achieving high-volume production output with additive manufacturing

Yuan Huang, Daniel R. Eyers, Mark Stevenson*, Matthias Thürer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The study aims to examine a discrepant industrial case that demonstrates how to achieve economies of scale with additive manufacturing (AM), thereby expanding the scope of AM beyond high-variety, customised production contexts. Design/methodology/approach: Abductive reasoning is applied to analyse a case of using AM to compete with conventional production, winning a contract to supply 7,700,000 products. Comparing this case to existing theories and contemporary practices reveals new research directions and practical insights. Findings: Economies of scale were realised through a combination of technological innovation and the adoption of operations management practices atypical of AM shops (e.g. design for volume, low-cost resource deployment and material flow optimisation). The former improved AM process parameters in terms of time, cost and dependability; the latter improved the entire manufacturing system, including non-AM operations/resources. This system-wide improvement has been largely overlooked in the literature, where AM is typically viewed as a disruptive technology that simplifies manufacturing processes and shortens supply chains. Originality/value: It is empirically shown that an AM shop can achieve economies of scale and compete with conventional manufacturing in high-volume, standardised production contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1844-1851
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number12
Early online date15 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful for the funding provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [grant number 71872072] and the Guangdong Province Universities and Colleges Pearl River Scholar Funded Scheme 2017.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • 3D printing
  • Additive manufacturing
  • COVID-19
  • Economies of scale

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