TitleSimplifying with Modularity: How Users Innovate when Making
Publication Type04. Conference Papers
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsNaik, H S., & Fritzsche A.
Conference NameR&D Management Conference
Date Published07/2016
Conference LocationCambridge

Open source development of tangible products has led to users who innovate by ‘making’, across multiple disciplines and including mechanical, electronic and software components. Such users have a wide solution space for innovation with various toolkits at their disposal. This study explores and outlines how these users simplify their solution spaces and innovate when making tangible products. It draws on two connected case studies: First is a case study on user innovators in a co-located event for making Internet of Things prototypes. The second is a case study on users and their innovations in the online platform Thingiverse for sharing 3D printing designs. With a perspective of modularity theory, the study identifies patterns of activities (both organizational and design) performed by users that simplify their solution spaces to innovate. The study found that users often began by reusing existing products that were available off-the-shelf and utilized digital fabrication (e.g. 3D Printing) and low cost computer hardware to design physical and informational interfaces as needed between them. They iteratively developed their innovations further, gradually increasing the solution space they worked with in each iteration. The study contributes to user innovation literature with implications on design of products and toolkits.