Removing barriers to sustainability research on personal fabrication and social manufacturing

Markko Hämäläinen, Babak Mohajeri, Timo Nyberg

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Since the beginning of the New Millennium, increasingly widespread availability of the Internet and digitally enabled tools have made production processes more accessible to private individuals, introducing new opportunities for personal fabrication and social manufacturing. Yet scant sustainability research has been conducted on this important sector. We argue that research barriers, particularly relating to confusing terminology and lack of individual-centric analytical tools, are largely responsible for this void. The objective of this study is to overcome these barriers by (1) providing an integrating framework that can improve transferability, to other conceptual analyses, of the results of sustainability research conducted from a particular conceptual viewpoint, and (2) suggesting how some firm-centric analytical tools can be modified for effective use in studies of individual-level phenomena. We base our framework on the emerging concept of social manufacturing, first eliciting its main aspects and dimensions with a conceptual literature study, and then discovering its central properties with an empirical case study. We conclude by using the new social manufacturing framework to suggest modifications of three common sustainability analysis tools to make them more applicable to research on individual-level production. By making future investigation in this area more accessible our work contributes to both sustainability research and to the emerging field of research on social manufacturing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-681
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Social manufacturing
  • Distributed manufacturing;
  • Personal fabrication
  • Distributed production
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Sharing economy
  • Maker movement


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