Additive Manufacturing

- A strategy guide

The purpose of this strategy guide is opening a new avenue for innovative, small organizations to thrive in a world led by an advanced manufacturing paradigm. Startups and small businesses are the main source of innovation and should be able to capitalize on information and build competitive business models regardless of capital investment. We strongly believe that 3D printing is the key to bringing these organizations to an agile manufacturing mode that will provide answers to our greatest sustainability challenges. If you are interested in the content of AM Maker, get in contact with us or the Danish AM Hub to receive more information.

Additive Manufacturing (AM for short) is a technology that creates, for the first time, an opportunity for small businesses to fabricate highly technological products. Therefore it has the potential to change the way we create businesses and strategy, but more importantly, the way small companies can become champions for the much needed sustainable transition.


Of special interest is the potential to substitute environmentally damaging supply chains with locally sourced 3D Printed designs. This means being able to produce configurable products that adapt to local needs without waste, or products that use designed metamaterials that perform the functions of imported components.

All this, without additional investment or partnerships across the world. However, we have learnt that in order to create these products it is necessary to take a step back and relearn the way 3D printers bundle our resources, products, and strategies.


With this guide we worked with 4 different companies on product development of existing or new products – you can see and read about the cases below. 

Introduction to strategies with AM

First, we need to explore the meaning and application of AM complexity freedom for sustainable entrepreneurship. We explore complexity freedom from 3 different lenses: system, digital, and material lenses.

Together, the three perspectives will place companies on the verge of technological development by giving them tools to reinterpret their products and business models.



The tool set was tested in a five week course, where the entrepreneurs had access to a workshop and printers to reinvent their products and propose a future scenario for their businesses, based on more sustainable 3D printing. By the end of the course, the participating entrepreneurs printed a vision for their own ventures where they became change agents that used Additive Manufacturing to bring us a step closer to a more sustainable future.

The systems lens

The complexity available in 3D printing gives us the chance to include an almost infinite amount of elements in the printing space, but what should we include?

In this workshop we introduce our tool deck to examine our product-business bundle from five different systemic perspectives.


  • How does information and resources flow through it?
  • Do these relationships change through time?
  • Who are the most important stakeholders?


This workshop provides a starting point for entrepreneurs to portrait sustainable scenarios where single products become networked systems.

The digital lens

AM gives entrepreneurs the chance to design products and business models where complexity is not built by adding physical components along a global supply chain, but rather digitally.

Therefore, each entrepreneur faces the question of, what to digitalise?


This workshop presents tools that complement product design and development computationally. With the help of these tools, it is possible for entrepreneurs to impregnate the system lens into digital versions of their products and capitalize on complex opportunities.

The material lens

3D printing technologies exist in a broad range of materials and processes, from plastic desktop printers that cost a couple of thousand kroner, to robot arms that melt pulverized titanium worth millions.

While differences among processes would suggest that more expensive is better, this workshop focuses on exposing how each level can be exploited effectively if the printer and material are understood properly.


Moreover, it highlights the potential of plastic printers to contribute to circular business models based on recycling. By the end of the workshop entrepreneurs will be able to better interact with the printer and exploit the properties of materials available to them.  

Sustainable 3D print

After working with the three AM lenses, the last workshop introduces an environmental prospection tool to evaluate current market offerings and portrait future opportunities.


In this workshop we look at possible scenarios and create a roadmap using the tools explored through the 3 lenses. We set up a design sprint to create a printed version of the sustainable opportunities found through our scenario exercise. 


In the summarised cases below, you can read how each case was worked conceptually through the four different complexity lenses and developed technically in a five week period. Each case is presented with a description of the business or entrepreneur, followed by the challenge to be tackled, the tools used to exploit complexity freedom and the final result. 


You can click the button and read more about UVision, Lili Lamps, Manyone and 91-92


As additive manufacturing proposes a new way of moving from ideas to products, the impact in terms of sustainability is potentially massive. However, it is with the introduction of strategies for additive manufacturing that we see an even greater impact.


Printing non-complex objects that could easily be produced in traditional manufacturing processes does not use the full extent of additive manufacturing. Yet, aligning business modeling with additive manufacturing creates the potential to substitute complete supply chains and their environmental impact.


Being able to use 3D printing is creating a new pathway for entrepreneurs balancing product development and business modeling. With additive manufacturing, scaling up from an idea to the first prototype to the actual product is accelerated in an agile and accessible way able to reduce the development sustainability footprint. Now, an entrepreneur can produce several iterations of the same product without losing time, without having to ship the prototypes around the world for evaluation and without middle-persons interpreting the order or the files. 


We have made calculations of the different sustainability footprints for the four cases in the program. These show the impact of working with strategies for additive manufacturing. Contact us to know more. 


The 4 cases presented are examples of ways to create a better, faster and more sustainable innovation process. This could be done with a thousand start-up’s in Denmark – and the potential for additive manufacturing and sustainable product development has never been greater.

What we've learnt

The 3D printed examples above show the potential competitiveness that small firms can unlock with AM. Each presents a combination of tools that build innovative results from an ad hoc frame of reference for each venture.

By making the framework digital, the team responsible for product design can make sense of the design challenge in the same way an organization would.


In this way a small organization can automate the design and development operations that traditional supply chains distribute along a value chain. And solve almost all the manufacturing challenges through 3D print. This allows the small organization to offer products that compete despite the disparity in capital investment.


This could be introducing sustainable design features in the same fashion as 91-92 or compliant mechanisms that save transport and assembly resources as is the case of Lily Lamps. Moreover, the configurability of 3D printing lets the small organization adapt strategically to changes in market and competitors. The landscape drawn by Uvision shows how this flexibility can be mapped in a competitive landscape that the company can explore to build alternative business cases.


Ultimately, 3D printing can be used to implement models that challenge traditional business modeling and build resilient organizations through open innovation.

About this guide

Together with Antonio Esparza, we have developed a 5-week course in strategies for additive manufacturing for physical entrepreneurs. The course, workshops, exercises and videos have been funded by the Danish AM Hub. During those 5 weeks all participants was working and printing in our facility Viadukten under Langebro.


The creator and the facilitator of the course is Antonio Esparza. He holds a PhD. in Entrepreneurship and 3D printing from Auckland  University of Technology in New Zealand. 

Interested in knowing more?
If you want to know more or simply become a member of Maker – please reach out or visit our members page.

If you are interested in knowing more about the danish AM scene and the possibilities and potential partners, you can always reach out to Danish AM Hub