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

Yuan Huang (Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Daniel R. Eyers (Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Mark Stevenson (Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Matthias Thürer (Jinan University, Shanghai, China)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 15 October 2021

Issue publication date: 1 December 2021




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.


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.


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.


It is empirically shown that an AM shop can achieve economies of scale and compete with conventional manufacturing in high-volume, standardised production contexts.



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.


Huang, Y., Eyers, D.R., Stevenson, M. and Thürer, M. (2021), "Breaking the mould: achieving high-volume production output with additive manufacturing", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 41 No. 12, pp. 1844-1851.



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