Re-energising The Illawarra Through Additive Manufacturing
Additive Manufacturing, known commonly as 3D printing, has been touted as a catalyst for areas with declining industries to renew themselves.
While certainly there is potential for the technology to enhance manufacturing in rapid prototyping, mass customisation, and optimal regional production, there are serious questions on how to bridge the potential and make this a reality. There are also questions about how to implement strategies to encourage the adoption and proliferation of such technologies in transitioning locations with locked-in economies.
This project aims to identify realistic and sustainable solutions for the University to further embrace Additive Manufacturing, and in a larger sense Advanced Manufacturing, in the Illawarrra to aid in the revival of manufacturing in the region.
Researcher Chantel Carr said the project considers how industrial regions approach the future of manufacturing and position themselves in the forefront of this growing industry. These themes can be translated to manufacturing-heavy cities throughout the world as well as in our backyard.
“Wollongong is a regional city so there is ease in operating in a smaller environment,” Chantel says. “We have the infrastructure, the port, the space and the knowledge base. Additive manufacturing can also address regional issues such as employment.”
Supported by the UOW Global Challenges leadership, the project is providing options for the University to lead new innovation in this area. Current work includes visiting and evaluating Maker Spaces, Fablabs, and other Additive Manufacturing networks around the world to identify enablers of success in investment. Ongoing studies are also exploring the relationship of academic-industry-government engagement in the innovation process of the dynamic 3D printing ecosystem.
Project Outcomes and Publications
After initially receiving seed funding, the team has undertaken studies looking at additive manufacturing at different scales globally and has recently been awarded project funding to continue this work. Members of the team have visited the Manchester Fablab and networked at the community level. They have also visited Lancaster Product Development Unit (LPDU) that operates at the regional level (North West UK). The team has also visited an advanced manufacturing policy network - America Makes.
A key finding is that advanced manufacturing is unlikely to simply substitute for current systems of mass manufacturing involving offshoring to factories in Asia with ‘comparative advantages’; containerization, logistics and supply chains; and cyclic commodity cultures. Initial work has found that advanced manufacturing is facilitating consumer participation in production, regional ‘trust’ networks, and providing a solution to geopolitical demands for ‘re-shoring’.
This project takes a multi-disciplinary approach across engineering, social sciences and business development to understand and help develop the University’s capacities in the evolving 3D printing ecosystem. The team is exploring the social and cultural impacts of the disruptive technologies on individuals and communities as well as the economic issues relating to rethinking models of innovation and additive manufacturing.
Dr Thomas Birtchnell is currently a Lecturer in Geography and Sustainable Communities at the University of Wollongong. Formerly he was Postdoctoral Research Associate at Lancaster University in the UK. His research project examined the past and future impacts of 3D printing on transport and society. His research interests lie in the movement of people, knowledge and materials globally. His work aims to understand the interface between manufacturing innovation and grassroots innovation, particularly in the Global South.
Dr Tillmann Böhme is lecturer at the University of Wollongong (Sydney Business School). His particular research interest is supply chain maturity in practice; more specifically the human, relationship, and cultural aspects of supply chain management and the development of potential pathways to enhancement. Recently, he started to investigate innovation capabilities within supply chains; in particular the uptake of additive manufacturing capabilities and its supply chain impact.
Dr Robert Gorkin is a Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong and Strategic Development Officer for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES). His background includes working on four continents with research and project management experience in Advancing Manufacturing including micro/nanofabrication, 3D printing, and emerging materials. He is currently working on 3D Bioprinting and new business models around Additive Manufacturing and Graphene Engineering.
Chantel Carr is a PhD candidate in the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research at UOW. Her research interests revolve around three interconnected themes: materials, makers and the environment. She examines how different skills, practices and approaches to making might be deployed in a future where limited resources have become reality.
Alberto Ordigoni is a PhD student at the Sydney Business School at UOW. He has a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Venice, a Master of Economics from the University of Udine and a Master of International Business from the University of Wollongong. His PhD Thesis will investigate supply chains within industrial clusters with a particular focus on buyer-supplier power relations.
Brogan Rylands is a PhD student at the Sydney Business School at UOW. She completed a Bachelor of Commerce (International Business) and Master of Strategic Management at the University Of Wollongong. She has 7+ years of industry experience in manufacturing and operations, ranging from supply chain and logistics, to OHSE and Compliance, Marketing and Customer Service. Her research interest areas include innovation and the impact that it has on supply chains, culture, supply chain maturity and bridging the gap between business and academia.
Dr Allan Rennie is a lecturer in Engineering at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. He is an expert in product development and is an external researcher on this project. In a recent interview he discussed product development, the rise of additive manufacturing, and the future of industry. To watch this interview visit the Global Challenges blog.