Creativity and productivity in product design for additive manufacturing

Sascha Friesike*, Christoph M. Flath, Marco Wirth, Frédéric Thiesse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The present study explores the phenomenon of remixing in product design for additive manufacturing (AM). In contrast to other manufacturing techniques, AM offers unprecedented flexibility in adapting existing product designs to changing requirements. However, in order to benefit from this potential, structured design procedures and tools are indispensable. As a possible solution, online platforms for collaborative 3D model creation are increasingly implementing features for remixing, a concept describing the creation of new models on the foundation of existing design elements. Against this backdrop, the objective of this research is to provide evidence for the value of remixing as an organizational intervention for improving product design processes. To this end, we present a mixed methods approach using data from Thingiverse, the world's largest AM-related online community. In a first step, we investigate qualitative data from 81 individual remix-based designs to identify the underlying mechanisms of remixing. We identify six such mechanisms that can further be grouped by the intended outcome of the respective process (creativity-oriented: inspiration, play, learning; productivity-oriented: speed, improvement, empowerment). In a second step, we turn to a quantitative analysis of platform data, which indicates that remixing may lead to better design process outcomes in terms of quantity and diversity of designs. Furthermore, we find that designs created by remixing designers are significantly more often printed by community members suggesting that remixing helps ensure manufacturing compatibility akin to continuous process improvement. Our research has several implications for individual designers and organizations engaging with product design for AM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-752
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Operations Management
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Additive manufacturing
  • Remix
  • Product design
  • Creativity
  • Productivity
  • CIMO logic
  • Mixed methods


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