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Economic sustainability of additive manufacturing: Contextual factors driving its performance in rapid prototyping (01a Articolo in rivista)

Khorram Niaki Mojtaba, Nonino Fabio, Palombi Giulia, Torabi S. Ali

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate additive manufacturing (AM) phenomenon extending previous research results by studying in-depth the economic sustainability of AM technology and bringing out the contextual factors that drive its superior performances in comparison with conventional manufacturing, and justify its adoption in rapid prototyping (RP) from an economic point of view. Design/methodology/approach: Data have been collected through a worldwide survey. Respondents were from 105 companies adopting the technology from 23 countries worldwide. Findings: The results of this research show that although AM-based prototyping leads to significant cost reduction, it is not as good as conventional manufacturing in terms of the profitability of investment. It also demonstrates how cost reduction depends on production volume and payback period depends on the types of material and scope of AM implementation after controlling for firm size and experience. Research limitations/implications: The performance indicator is measured using a Likert scale; however, more reliable conclusion could be made by real amounts. The research also took into account the economic aspects of performance; however, to evaluate the AM technology more comprehensively, other performance measures such as those of social and environmental ones should be considered. Practical implications: The paper provides insightful implications for the adoption of AM. In particular, it reveals the contingent performance of the technology in RP. Originality/value: This paper contributes to expand the literature by demonstrating how different circumstances affect the performance of AM technologies for prototyping and by linking the operational and organizational factors with its performance.
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