3D Printing In Mass Production

Chanel utilising new manufacturing technology commercially

Luxury fashion brand Chanel has teamed up with French 3D printing service provider Erpro Group to design and produce a 3D printed mascara brush. The French fashion house first filed for a patent for a 3D printed mascara brush in 2007, and more than a decade on, their Volume Révolution mascara will enter mass production in June 2018.

3D for design and mass production

Whilst 3D printing technology has now been around for a long time, its applications in mass production are just beginning to come to the fore. The most typical use of industrial 3D is still in design – where prototypes can be manufactured quickly and cheaply in a single step process, highly preferable to the lengthy practice of creating moulds. By using 3D printing in their design process, Chanel were able to create 100 prototype mascara brushes and perfect the model. The final product design – featuring a granular texture and microcavities to maximise mascara application to lashes – would not have been possible under traditional injection moulding manufacture methods.

Chanel’s decision to move into 3D also proves that the technology now has the speed and practicality to serve manufacturing on an industrial scale. Their target production is currently set at around 50,000 brushes per day, with an upper figure of one million brushes per month. If there were doubts about 3D printing’s suitability in mass production, this development appears to put them to bed.

A commercial success

Away from the design process, 3D printing is seeing wider adoption in the commercial sector. In manufacturing, it not only facilitates the creation of innovative products that would have been impossible under traditional methods, but vastly reduces waste. What’s more, it expands the kinds of materials that can be used. In a move that could signal the end of traditional plastics, bio polymers are being developed with the express purpose of 3D printing. The Luma Foundation, based in Arles, France, has invented an algae based polymer which is so effective at absorbing carbon dioxide that it could make the production process carbon negative. Bioplastics are also easier to recycle and degrade more quickly than the synthetic plastics of the past, making them an environmentally friendly alternative to oil based products.

In the industrial manufacturing sector, Siemens recently announced plans to fund a new 3D printing facility in the Midlands. When it opens in September 2018, the Worcester facility – developed with a £27 million investment from Siemens – will become one of Europe’s largest 3D printing factories. It will be run by Materials Solutions, the same British company which successfully 3D printed gas turbine blades for Siemens last year. Siemens’ 85 per cent stake in Materials Solutions shows confidence that the strength of 3D printing in industrial manufacturing is only set to grow.

Has 3D printing finally moved to a new level? Are we about to witness the rise in 3D printed manufacturing? Would your business have a viable case for 3D printing prototypes? Share your thoughts and opinions.

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