Is Mass Customization for Everyone?

MIT’s been doing some deep thinking about Mass Customization recently. For those of you who are not aware of mass customization, it’s the concept where customers are able to a very great degree determine the form of the product they receive. In other words, the customer knows more about what they want than a central mass-production factory, which by definition can provide only a limited set of product choices.

Mass customization has a relationship with 3D printing because we believe in a future world where 3D printers are often found within homes and businesses. A world like that would be the ultimate landing point for many mass customization concepts.

The MIT study explores the idea of a business using mass customization techniques (which could include the 3D printer scenario above) and smashes the notion that manufacturers with central mass-production plants have no interest in mass customization. The study says that by considering certain steps a business could indeed leverage mass customization techniques successfully. The steps include:

  • The company must decide where where the line of customization and standardization lies. Certainly there must be a basic form to the solution from which the customizations can be applied. Without this definition, you’re going to have a mess on your hands.
  • The company’s manufacturing, supply chains and operations must be capable of adapting to a new mass customization approach. In the distributed 3D printing scenario, this could be a lot simpler than adapting central manufacturing plants.
  • The company must be able to adequately support the resulting diversity of goods without being overly expensive. This would require very careful design of the product and its customizations.

For a future company hoping to deliver customized designs to home/business 3D printers, these would definitely be considerations.

Via Mass Customization and MIT

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