The boundaries of co-production : how the interplay of self-printing and branding affects product valuation

Erkin, Aras; Wentzel, Daniel (Thesis advisor); Piller, Frank Thomas (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2018)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule, 2018


Being seen as one of the most important technological advances in the last few decades, many different scientific disciplines have dealt with the topic of 3D printing. As a result, a large variety of literature streams can be found shedding light on the innovative technology of 3D printing from different perspectives - from a medical, material engineering, plant construction, mechanical engineering and many more. In general, 3D printing describes a manufacturing process where different materials (e.g. synthetic materials, metals, and ceramics) are printed layer by layer under computer control to create a full object. While the insights coming from all these different fields of study present important facets of this innovative production method, one important perspective is highly under-investigated - the consumers’. Consumers already have the possibility to either order 3D printed products from multiple online platforms or even purchase fully functional 3D printers for domestic use for quite some time. In order to use these services or printers, consumers merely have to send a digital model of an object (e.g. as a .stl-file) to the printing service provider or, if in possession of an own 3D printer, have to upload the file into the printer and print the object themselves. The focus of the following dissertation lies on the empowerment of the consumer to print their own products at home (referred to as self-print). By that, it is assumed that one day companies will enable customers to buy files of the products they want to have and self-print these at home. From a company’s point of view this might have interesting implications. In this regard, a first question arises if and how the possibility to self-print products at home might influence consumers’ product and brand perception. Possible answers can be found in multiple streams of literature. Following the literature in ‘co-creation’, self-printing can be seen as a mean of integrating consumers in the productive activities of their goods. Combined with the insights on ‘perceived ownership’, one can assume that self-printing in general might have a positive impact on product valuation. On the one hand, this is due to consumers’ productive efforts. On the other hand, the positive effect of self-printing might stem from consumers increased feelings of ownership due to the fact that the self-printed product is manufactured only for and by the consumers. However, a second research question arises in this context: Is this positive influence of self-printing generally valid? The answer to that question might be twofold. While the positive influence is still to be expected for generic products or products with brands which are known for integrating consumers in productive efforts (e.g. IKEA), for other brands the influence of self-printing might differ, i.e. might reverse. Based on literature on ‘authenticity’ and ‘branding’ it can be assumed that the effect of self-printing on product valuation for low-prestige brands still remains positive, while for high-prestige brands a negative effect might loom. A reason for this can be found in the demystification of high-prestige brands’ production methods. Once self-printing consumers see how the product is produced they might perceive the whole printing process, and thus the brand, as inauthentic. However, this brings up the question whether there are means companies can rely on to decrease this potentially negative effect for high-prestige brands or even reverse it. Having raised this issue, this dissertation attempts to investigate the impact of self-printing on consumers’ product valuation - for generic products as well as for low- and high-prestige branded products. Further, ingredient branding is investigated as a means to attenuate the supposedly negative effect self-printing has on high-prestige brands. For this purpose, a conceptual framework is developed and examined through a series of four studies. By demonstrating the effects of self-printing on product valuation as well as by identifying means attenuating or even reserving the negative effect for high-prestige brands, this research makes important contributions to theory and practice.


  • Chair of Marketing [812310]