Analysis of the dynamics of technological change in 3D printing technology

A method for the detection and characterization of technology fronts: Analysis of the dynamics of technological change in 3D printing technology

Author:
Gaizka Garechana, Department of Business Management, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain
Rosa Río-Belver, Department of Business Management, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain
Iñaki Bildosola, Department of Business Management, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain
Ernesto Cilleruelo-Carrasco, Department of Business Management, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain

Publishing Date: Dec 2019
Language: English
Research Paper link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6322778/
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3D-Application

Abstract

This paper presents a method for the identification of the “technology fronts”—core technological solutions—underlying a certain broad technology, and the characterization of their change dynamics. We propose an approach based on the Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) model combined with patent data analysis and text mining techniques for the identification and dynamic characterization of the main fronts where actual technological solutions are put into practice. 3D printing technology has been selected to put our method into practice for its market emergence and multidisciplinary. The results show two highly relevant and specialized fronts strongly related with mechanical design that evolve gradually, in our opinion acting as enabling technologies. On the other side, we detected three fronts undergoing significant changes, namely layer-by-layer multimaterial manufacturing, data processing and stereolithograpy techniques. Laser and electron-beam based technologies take shape in the latter years and show signs of becoming enabling technologies in the future. The technology fronts and data revealed by our method have been convincing to experts and coincident with many technology trends already pointed out in technical reports and scientific literature.

Introduction

3D printing technology is experiencing an explosion in the number of patents filed since 2013, according to the data retrieved using the query described in the “data download” section. The number of simple patent families filed that year more than quadrupled the number of patents filed in 2012, and the average growth rate in the number of patents filed each year from 2013 to 2016 stands at a remarkable 75%, as shown in figure. Several authors suggest that increasing sales, industry’s growing adoption and a boost in popularity have qualified 3D printing technology as “emergent”, notwithstanding, the first functional solutions in 3D printing date back 30 years.

This chart shows the evolution in the annual number of 3D printing technology patents (simple families) filed since year 2004.

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