Many of the ethical issues of additive manufacturing (AM) are not well known or understood, and there remains a policy vacuum that needs to be addressed. This paper aims…
Many of the ethical issues of additive manufacturing (AM) are not well known or understood, and there remains a policy vacuum that needs to be addressed. This paper aims to describe an approach that has been applied successfully to other emerging technologies, referred to as the responsible research and innovation (RRI) framework programme. A case is then made for the application of this approach in the AM industry with an illustration of how it might be used.
The research uses an RRI approach referred to as AREA, an acronym for Anticipate, Reflect, Engage and Act, to assess the ethical implications of AM. For the anticipation phase, horizon scanning was done to explore the ethical issues of AM based on extant literature, while reflective analysis was carried out all through the work to reflect on the data being collected and the research process. The engage phase involved interviews with five participants from small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) involved in 3D printing.
The findings indicate that although AM appears to pose a threat to intellectual property rights, many in the industry do not care about this issue. As AM becomes mainstream, intellectual property will likely become a big problem. Also, very little is known about the health impacts of AM. This study shows that AM can be hazardous.
Only users at SME level were sampled. Other researchers might test the usefulness of AREA at the enterprise level.
The research demonstrates how the AREA framework may be useful in information systems and social science research by enabling a more anticipatory and reflective research process.
The paper responds to the need for a novel approach to identifying ethical issues of AM.