Additive Manufacturing for the Consumer Products Industry

Additive Design

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Published on 

March 29, 2022

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4 minute read

SUMMARY

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Many consumer products from baby care, food and beverage, and jewelry, to furniture, sporting goods, and apparel have long made use of additive manufacturing (AM) processes to speed up prototyping times during the product planning and design stage. But as the technology continues to mature AM is becoming the go-to option for direct manufacturing for many of these industries as it paves way for products that look and function better, and are more cost effective.

SmarTech reports that 3D printed footwear will generate close to $6.5 billion by 2029. It follows suit that the adoption of AM is on the rise across many other CPG products.

In this article we’ll look at the benefits of additive manufacturing in the CPG industry including four case studies of AM applications in different product categories.

How AM is Disrupting The Consumer Goods Industry

The role of additive manufacturing in CPG isn’t only it’s viability as a cost-effective alternative to existing manufacturing processes like subtractive and injection molding, but it’s also the intangibles it brings to the table that are reshaping the industry as a whole by breathing new life into a variety of consumer products. Some of the benefits inherent to utilizing additive processes are discussed below.

Low Setup Costs

Where formative and subtractive methods require expensive tooling and setup costs, AM is the runaway winner. And as additive technology continues to make headway, the cost advantage of going with AM over subtractive or formative processes for serial manufacturing becomes all the more evident.

Minimal To No Product Waste

The most technologically advanced AM processes make use of a continuous liquid interface and a programmable resin to make up the final part layer by layer, eliminating a lot of wasted material - a common byproduct of subtractive methods. Additionally, complex lattice designs that weren’t possible using traditional manufacturing processes are more feasible with AM and can further trim down overall material requirement.

Lean Supply Chain

AM makes ways for innovative and complex new designs for existing products, where merging multiple parts into one can both speed up assembly time and shrink down your supply chain as less suppliers and manufacturers are involved. Moreover, working with a local manufacturing partner ensures the quality of your parts is at the standard you need them to be at, puts you closer to the end customer, and effectively reduces distribution time and the necessary on-hand inventory required at any given time. This also leads to lower transportation costs and a lower carbon footprint.

Product Customization

Product customization is no longer a luxury. According to a 2017 online survey by Epsilon, the appeal for personalization is high, with 80% of respondents indicating they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences and 90% indicating that they find personalization appealing. Companies making personalization a part of their offering have carved out a strong advantage for themselves over their competition and AM is making it possible by eliminating the need for expensive tooling.

All of this leads to better products for the end-user, resulting in higher levels of satisfaction, and more sales and profits.

Case Studies For Additive Manufacturing in The CPG Industry

Let’s take a look at a few use cases for a variety of products making use of additive manufacturing in the CPG space today.

Adidas Athletic Footwear

In collaboration with Carbon, Adidas leveraged the Carbon DLS process and the EPU 41 polymer to reimagine the midsoles in its athletic footwear.

Adidas wanted to push innovation to its limits by creating a midsole with varying properties to improve shoe performance across different sports. Traditionally midsoles cannot be injection or compression molded in one piece with properties that vary across the part. For that, multiple parts and an expensive and intensive labor process would be required.

Adidas turned to AM for the design freedom and material flexibility it provides and used the Carbon DLS process to quickly iterate and land on a high performing and durable midsole design. Once the right solution was achieved the part was ready to be printed at scale using the same process.

Beauty Products

The adoption of additive manufacturing in the beauty industry is on the rise as manufactures innovate on products like mascara brushes; lipstick, foundation, and powder compacts; and a variety of product packaging.

Chanel made use of an additive process to create a unique mascara brush which uses microcavities that can absorb a larger amount of mascara than previous brushes. This allows the user to reuse the brush multiple times over without dipping back into the tube for additional coating. Additionally, individual strands of a brush made use of a granular texture surface finish, increasing the surface area and improving distribution of the mascara on the eyelashes.

Smashbox - a self-proclaimed “complexion perfecting” makeup company of over 20 years - used AM to develop custom lipsticks for their customers allowing them to choose from over 120 different lipstick shades and printing them on a compact of any desired shape.

Using AM in the beauty industry is at its advent, but pioneers like Chanel and Smashbox demonstrate how the technology can be used to transform the way cosmetic products are manufactured.

Kupol’s Bike Helmets

In addition to accelerating the product development process, AM also enables the creation of complex structures not feasible using other technologies.

Kupol is leading the charge in the field of bike safety with an innovative bike helmet design that keeps the head cool while maintaining the functional fidelity and safety required of a helmet - where safety, comfort, and aeration are the primary design drivers.

The helmet uses a triple system that uses internal cores designed to collapse on impact to take the brunt of the force, kinetic bumpers under the shell that cushion the head, and over a 100 suction pods that offer protection against quick rotational movements.

All of this is made possible with additive manufacturing.

Conclusion

Consumer products are varied and serve a multitude of purposes across many industries. The design complexity that AM allows gives product designers and engineers the flexibility needed to create better consumer products across different categories, that perform and function better, and cost less to manufacture. While some industries are still experimenting with how AM can shape the future of their products, others are ramping up production across different product SKUs and taking advantage of cost savings, a leaner supply chain, and more room for innovation that’s giving new energy and a larger scope to existing products.

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