Distributed manufacturing

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Distributed manufacturing also known as distributed production, cloud producing and local manufacturing is a form of decentralized manufacturing practiced by enterprises using a network of geographically dispersed manufacturing facilities that are coordinated using information technology. It can also refer to local manufacture via the historic cottage industry model, or manufacturing that takes place in the homes of consumers.


Within the maker movement and DIY culture, small scale production by consumers often using peer-to-peer resources is being referred to as distributed manufacturing. Consumers download digital designs from an open design repository website like Youmagine or Thingiverse and produce a product for low costs through a distributed network of 3D printing services such as 3D Hubs, Geomiq or at home with an open-source 3-D printer such as the RepRap.[1][2]


The primary attribute of distributed manufacturing is the ability to create value at geographically dispersed locations via manufacturing. For example, shipping costs could be minimized when products are built geographically close to their intended markets.[3] Also, products manufactured in a number of small facilities distributed over a wide area can be customized with details adapted to individual or regional tastes. Manufacturing components in different physical locations and then managing the supply chain to bring them together for final assembly of a product is also considered a form of distributed manufacturing.[4][5] Digital networks combined with additive manufacturing allow companies a decentralized and geographically independent distributed production (cloud manufacturing).[6]

Social change[edit]

Some[7][8][9] call attention to the conjunction of commons-based peer production with distributed manufacturing techniques. The self-reinforced fantasy of a system of eternal growth can be overcome with the development of economies of scope, and here, the civil society can play an important role contributing to the raising of the whole productive structure to a higher plateau of more sustainable and customised productivity.[7] Further, it is true that many issues, problems and threats rise due to the large democratization of the means of production, and especially regarding the physical ones.[7] For instance, the recyclability of advanced nanomaterials is still questioned; weapons manufacturing could become easier; not to mention the implications on counterfeiting[10] and on "intellectual property".[11] It might be maintained that in contrast to the industrial paradigm whose competitive dynamics were about economies of scale, commons-based peer production and distributed manufacturing could develop economies of scope. While the advantages of scale rest on cheap global transportation, the economies of scope share infrastructure costs (intangible and tangible productive resources), taking advantage of the capabilities of the fabrication tools.[7] And following Neil Gershenfeld[12] in that “some of the least developed parts of the world need some of the most advanced technologies”, commons-based peer production and distributed manufacturing may offer the necessary tools for thinking globally but act locally in response to certain problems and needs. As well as supporting individual personal manufacturing [13] social and economic benefits are expected to result from the development of local production economies. In particular, the humanitarian and development sector are becoming increasingly interested in how distributed manufacturing can overcome the supply chain challenges of last mile distribution.[14]


  1. ^ Sells, Ed, Zach Smith, Sebastien Bailard, Adrian Bowyer, and Vik Olliver. "Reprap: the replicating rapid prototyper: maximizing customizability by breeding the means of production." HANDBOOK OF RESEARCH IN MASS CUSTOMIZATION AND PERSONALIZATION, (2010).
  2. ^ Jones, R., Haufe, P., Sells, E., Iravani, P., Olliver, V., Palmer, C., & Bowyer, A. (2011). Reprap??? the replicating rapid prototyper. Robotica, 29(1), 177-191.
  3. ^ Durach, Christian F.; Kurpjuweit, Stefan; Wagner, Stephan M. (2017-09-25). "The impact of additive manufacturing on supply chains". International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management. 47 (10): 954–971. doi:10.1108/ijpdlm-11-2016-0332. ISSN 0960-0035.
  4. ^ Chrisman, Ray. "Enhancement of Distributed Manufacturing using expanded Process Intensification Concepts" (PDF). University of Washington. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  5. ^ Hermann Kühnle (2010). Distributed Manufacturing: Paradigm, Concepts, Solutions and Examples. Springer. ISBN 978-1-84882-707-3. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  6. ^ Felix Bopp (2010). Future Business Models by Additive Manufacturing. Verlag. ISBN 978-3836685085. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d Kostakis, V.; Bauwens, M. (2014): Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. (wiki)
  8. ^ Kostakis, V.; Papachristou, M. (2014): Commons-based peer production and digital fabrication: The case of a RepRap-based, Lego-built 3D printing-milling machine. In: Telematics and Informatics, 31(3), 434 - 443
  9. ^ Kostakis, V; Fountouklis, M; Drechsler, W. (2013): Peer Production and Desktop Manufacturing: The Case of the Helix-T Wind Turbine Project. . In: Science, Technology, & Human Values, 38(6), 773 - 800.
  10. ^ Campbell, Thomas, Christopher Williams, Olga Ivanova, and Banning Garrett. (2011): Could 3D Printing Change the World? Technologies, Potential, and Implications of Additive Manufacturing Archived August 15, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Washington: Atlantic Council of the United States
  11. ^ Bradshaw, Simon, Adrian Bowyer, and Patrick Haufe (2010): The Intellectual Property Implications of Low-Cost 3D Printing. In: SCRIPTed 7
  12. ^ Gershenfeld, Neil (2007): FAB: The Coming Revolution on your Desktop: From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. Cambridge: Basic Books, p. 13-14
  13. ^ Mota, C., 2011, November. The rise of personal fabrication. In Proceedings of the 8th ACM conference on Creativity and cognition (pp. 279-288). ACM.
  14. ^ Corsini, L., Aranda-Jan, C. B., & Moultrie, J. (2019). Using digital fabrication tools to provide humanitarian and development aid in low-resource settings. Technology in Society. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2019.02.003