3D Printing Packaging & Consumer Goods: Custom Designs, Lower Costs

3d printing packagingWe’ve all heard that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but there’s no denying that appearances matter - at least when it comes to consumer packaging. A 2015 study found that 84% of consumers agreed that “package designs have a significant impact on their buying behavior.”

The way we design, produce, and package consumer goods all contribute to their success in the market, but traditional design and prototyping processes can be costly and time-consuming. Companies looking to gain a competitive edge need to move quickly and efficiently in order to be successful.

Because of this, 3D printing for packaging and consumer goods have increased in popularity. Companies are learning that 3D printing allows them to produce more accurate prototypes faster, while also creating recognizable designs that help them stand out in an increasingly competitive market. Unfortunately, these companies are also frequently relying on older technology that is less reliable and not as fast as newer models. Although buying a newer model is an investment, there are many advantages to upgrading to a new 3D printer for consumer goods.

New 3D Printers Save Time

Like most industries, time to market is critical for consumer goods. Companies must be able to adapt quickly to changing consumer demands and industry trends, then beat their competitors to market with a superior product. Falling behind the curve could cost a company thousands or even millions of dollars in lost revenue, so adherence to deadlines is strict.

3d printing packagingUnfortunately for these companies, traditional design cycles are not fast or cost-efficient. Traditional cycles typically go through five stages of development between 10 and 100 prototypes per cycle, and each model can cost upwards of $1500. Manufacturers have to balance the need for speed with the significantly slower (but just as necessary) requirements for testing and iterative design.

New 3D printers have been built to produce faster without sacrificing accuracy, and many models are designed to fill the needs of specific industries. The Stratasys J750, for example, is particularly well-suited for consumer goods, and companies like Adidas Group and Thermos Company have used it to quickly troubleshoot and adapt designs and parts. Innodesign, a top design group, was able to cut lead time by 97% when using a J750 over traditional methods and post-processing.

Realistic Prototypes

3d printing packagingIn addition to time savings, newer 3D printers offer more realistic prototypes than older models are capable of producing. The Stratasys J750, for example, has a six-material capacity and is compatible with a wide range of composite materials. Its full-color capability with texture mapping and color gradients mean prototypes it produces look, feel and operate like finished products. This expansion in color and 3D printing materials options is not uncommon in newer 3D printers, especially the Stratasys line, and results in more realistic prototypes and faster design cycles.

Companies large and small have leveraged this newer technology to great success. Industry giants like Nike and Adidas have used 3D printing for functional testing and prototypes that could be created in hours. Small companies have also invested in 3D printing; Zac Coon at 106 Labs used a 3D printing service to quickly create prototype parts with fine detail.

Design That Resonates

While realistic prototypes and an effective end product are critical, brand managers know that even the best products can flounder if they’re not packaged properly. As we mentioned before, the packaging a product is presented in can have a huge influence on how people perceive it. No matter how good your product is, if it doesn’t stand out it will likely get left on the shelf.

Because packaging influences the way consumers experience a product, successful brands know they need to create realistic prototypes they can test and adapt as needed. 3D printing packaging is beneficial to companies who want to quickly and efficiently cycle through their options and find the design that resonates. The best packaging for consumer goods will marry practicality with an appealing design that stands out among the competitors.

3d printing packagingClinique, for example, has a widely recognized brand appearance. Clinique’s packaging has used a consistent logo and fonts since the company’s beginning in the 1960’s, and its unchanging pastel color scheme has become product identifiers for customers. The “modern and fresh” design reflects its values as a company; although Clinique keeps its most iconic designs unchanged, it is not afraid to play with brighter, newer designs to help stand out and improve customer experience. Its designs can be recognized globally because it has a “distinctly classic” look.

This type of recognition is what all companies should aim for, but achieving a distinct look takes time. Companies will likely go through many iterations of packaging before settling on an end design. And like prototype development, this process can be time-consuming and needs to be tested at multiple stages to find what works best.

Because of this, 3D print packaging is preferable to traditional methods not only because it’s faster but also because it gives users greater flexibility in what they create. Stoelzle Glass, for example, found that they could use 3D printing to add textural effects to their glass and print designs in high-resolution color. This allowed them to create standout designs that could resemble marble, wood, or hand-painted designs.

Creating a Design That Sells

Regardless of the product you create, functionality and presentation are key. New advancements in 3D printers allow companies to work faster and create more efficient prototypes, while also testing packaging designs that grab consumers’ interest and establishes brand identity. As industries change and consumer demands evolve, companies will need to be more agile than ever before - and 3D printing for packaging and consumer goods will help them stay ahead.

3D Printing packaging

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About the Author

Lisa HannonLisa Hannon is a marketing manager at Fisher Unitech.  She develops content for 3D printing topics that have an impact across all industries that are researching ways to maximize getting products to market faster as well as cost savings with 3D printing solutions.  Lisa has worked as a marketing management professional since 1998, most recently with Stratasys. You can follow her on Twitter: @lmci37.