With 3D printing, companies can convert digital prototypes of their products into physical objects at a breath-taking pace. In doing so, they arrive much faster at the right design and shorten their time-to-market. This provides great benefits for prototyping cosmetics packaging. However, previous 3D technology had a major limitation in terms of colour. Now this is a thing of the past with the arrival of Mimaki’s full-colour 3D printer.
Bert Benckhuysen, Senior Product Manager at Mimaki EMEA
The cosmetics industry is extremely creative. This is evident in all the beautiful packaging of, for example, perfume bottles, tubes and cream jars. Historically, a model maker was always engaged for prototyping these products. They were shown the digital design and then started working with manual techniques, including glass-blowing, moulding and screen printing, to meticulously recreate the design. This cost a great deal of time and money. Moreover, nine out of ten designs were rejected, which meant that the model maker then had to begin the next design immediately, incurring even more time and cost. Over the past few years, 3D printing has increasingly been used in the cosmetics industry, taking over a large part of the model building work, at least for early production models. The most important limitation that prevented this from a more rapid adoption is that previously, these 3D-printed objects could only be printed in white or colourless. It required a lot of imagination to really assess a 3D prototype, or a drawing of it had to be done by hand. This changed drastically with the emergence of full-colour 3D printers, and in particular, with the Mimaki 3DUJ-553.
When Mimaki brought its first 3D printer to the market, it was a hit almost immediately. It finally made it possible to print with up to 10 million different colours, but also with transparent ink. A digital design of, for example, a perfume bottle, complete with printing and packaging, could now be faithfully reproduced with the 3D printer without any human effort. This was literally a revolution for prototyping in the cosmetics industry. Now it is possible to print complete photo-realistic prototypes for all kinds of products, from perfume bottles, tubes and jars to labels and packaging materials. Although they are not functional, but only suitable for marketing purposes, and to determine whether certain packaging is right for a specific product, it is ideal to take both time and cost out of the process, ensuring faster design cycles and a time to market that delivers a significant competitive advantage.
Since that time, more and more people are beginning to understand the wide range of applications for this type of rapid prototyping. For example, requests from the market can also be made to print such specific things as transparent black. In doing so, you can simulate a bottle with dark glass, which is common in perfume bottles and other cosmetics packaging. But in principle, all sorts of colours are possible by using what we call “skeleton mode.” In this mode, the 3D printer combines the transparent ink with a specific colour tone, so you can also simulate pink or green transparent bottles – or any other colour that is desired.
Another major advantage of Mimaki 3D printing technology is that the digital models can be sent directly to the printer without any complicated adjustments. This is ideal, because the designer can manufacture prototypes completely independently without the intervention of a model builder or technical expert. That not only saves time but also eliminates the need for additional software or human expertise.
We can honestly say that full-colour 3D printing with transparency is a real breakthrough in a highly competitive market such as the cosmetics industry. There is no better way to quickly manufacture photo-realistic prototypes. The time-to-market for new products is significantly speeded up because the design phase is much less labour-intensive and produces products that you can physically view and touch. As a result, cosmetics manufacturers can bring new products to the market much more frequently and faster. This is a win-win situation, both for the cosmetics manufacturers and the enthusiastic buyers of their products.