Electrical and Computer Engineering Publications

Prospects of applying 3-D printing to economics of remote communities: Reindeer herder case

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Journal of Enterprising Communities

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Purpose: Isolated communities face a variety of inconveniences including severe remoteness, poor roads and extreme climate conditions, resulting in the lack of security of supply chains and exorbitant prices for cargo delivery. This paper aims to investigate the present advantages and prospects of applying 3-D printing to improve economics and everyday life of remote communities, reindeer herder case taken as an example. Design/methodology/approach: This study covers the use of a low-cost open-source 3-D printer (RepRap) capable of fused filament fabrication to reduce operating costs for nomadic reindeer herder groups. Three case studies are provided for reindeer-specific applications to probe economic and technical viability of the technology, namely, ear-tags, electric fence components and lasso accessories. Findings: 3-D printed objects feature technical characteristics similar to those of analogues available on the market while reducing the price by 63 per cent. Distributed 3-D printing reduces the cost of raw materials by 68 per cent and shipping costs by 50 because of lower trip frequency. If all reindeer herders globally were to adopt distributed manufacturing of the three aforementioned sample items only, their annual savings from such solution would amount to US$2m. The paper discovers other economic, entrepreneurial, technical and environmental opportunities offered by 3-D printing put to service the needs of remote communities. Research limitations: As the paper is the first-ever study of 3-D printing potential applied to the reindeer husbandry case, it is based on a more thorough analysis of the techno-economic feasibility of the technology, while cultural and entrepreneurial factors have been discussed as preconditions only. Practical implications: The paper might serve as a valuable source of information for entrepreneurs, as well as for students and academics for further case studies in this area. Originality/value: In remote conditions, 3-D printing offers a more sustainable way of good manufacturing. Numerous open source designs already available for specialists, financial effectiveness, environmental benefits and vast opportunities for entrepreneurs are among the most promising advantages of the technology.

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