Distributed Manufacturing

Jian Cao, Kornel Ehmann, Shiv G. Kapoor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Manufacturing transforms raw materials into different forms or functions through the use of energy and resources. Through this process, new ideas are implemented to create something different from the original shape or function, and values are added to the manufactured goods. The desire to achieve better precision, to utilize less energy, or to simply make cost-competitive products has pushed for innovations in manufacturing processes and system optimization. Throughout history, manufacturing has evolved from cottage businesses to capital-intensive enterprises. It creates good-quality jobs and becomes an indicator for national competitiveness. While manufacturing becomes more geared toward mass production, undesired consequences, such as limited choice and excessive waste, are becoming increasingly more prominent challenges. On the other hand, the demand for point-of-need manufacturing or customized manufacturing has formed a new, yet original, mode of manufacturing, i.e., distributed manufacturing. 3D printing of household items is one example of such distributed manufacturing. In this chapter, the history of manufacturing and its general economic and societal impacts will be discussed first, followed by observations of past and current applications of distributed manufacturing, a discussion on technical enablers and challenges, and finally the projection of the potential impacts and the future of distributed manufacturing from both technological and social perspectives.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Science and Technology Convergence
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-04033-2
StatePublished - 2015


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