3D Printing: Manufacture in the Blink of an Eye

3D Printing: Manufacture in the Blink of an Eye

L’Oréal recognized its customers were changing faster than ever before. In 3 years, customers had progressed more than they had in the last 30 years. To keep up, L’Oréal would need to accelerate its time to market.

Waiting several weeks for a single prototype was no longer an option. 3D printing enabled the company to cut down its prototyping time to a matter of days. They could now fabricate a prototype in a matter of hours. In fact, the company now boasts over 14,000 prototypes per year. This is known as “rapid prototyping.”

Rapid prototyping is the fast fabrication of a physical product. It allows you to get a more complete picture of the product early in the development process. From there you can run tests and make iterative improvements to the final design and functionality. 

3D printing (aka additive manufacturing) is the technology behind it. All you need is a 3D model of the product and it can be printed from various plastics and metals in a matter of hours. Lengthy lead times from outsourcing the fabrication are practically eliminated. 

Rapid prototyping is one of the most powerful tools in a manufacturer’s digital transformation strategy, and it is already widely used across the industry. 

Volkswagen uses rapid prototyping for highly realistic interior and exterior design choices, like interior surfaces and headlights. The choices in materials and colours allow Volkswagen to build prototypes that are 99% accurate to the final production parts. As design is one of the most important features in a vehicle, rapid prototyping allows the company to quickly test out countless iterations and combinations so the best results are achieved in the least amount of time possible. 

3M used rapid prototyping to develop a new line of sanding tools. Time to market was a driving force behind 3M’s digital transformation. The company needed to get this line of sanding tools out the door as quickly as possible. With 3D printing, prototypes took a matter of hours to build. In some cases, several iterations were completed in a single day. Not only were prototypes created faster, but they were as close to the final product as possible so better testing could be performed and upgrades could be made. 

Medtronic uses rapid prototyping to solve problems faster. On a daily basis, surgeons come to Medtronic to explain an issue they are having to an engineer. By the next morning, or even the same day, the surgeon is given a 3D printed prototype of a medical device to solve their issue. Solutions, like a torque instrument for vertebrae implants, can be prototyped and reviewed within a couple days. The product is perfected before any costly metal fabrication takes place. 

Rapid prototyping allows for faster, cheaper, and more realistic prototypes. Gone are the days of waiting weeks for an expensive design that will be thrown out a day later. With 3D printing, you can design your prototypes on demand for a much better result.