The cost of cutting-edge technology tends to fall drastically over time. For instance, most of us carry portable electronic devices that have more processing power than early mainframe computers that filled an entire room and cost a million dollars, and an 80-inch 4K television set costs about the same amount today as a 27-inch CRT television cost in the 1970s.
These precipitous price drops allow everyday consumers to enjoy technology that was once reserved for Fortune 500 companies, and the same thing is happening in the field of additive manufacturing.
For example, the earliest 3D printers were prohibitively expensive industrial units that only large companies like aircraft and automobile manufacturers could afford, and they revolutionized the way complex components are developed and made. The latest models are even more capable and sophisticated, but they do not cost nearly as much.
These advances mean that firms of all sizes can now reap the benefits of rapid prototyping. This article will cover recent advances in rapid prototyping for product packaging and explain how additive manufacturing techniques allow even the smallest businesses to compete on a level playing field with industry giants.
What Is Rapid Prototyping?
Prototypes are preliminary versions or scale models of proposed products or parts that may or may not be functional. They allow designers and engineers to explore new ideas and give companies a way to gauge consumer reactions to a new model or design.
Several prototypes of a new product or part may be created during the development process as designs are refined, and consumer feedback is taken into account. A type of prototype product that most of us are familiar with is the concept car models unveiled at auto shows. While these concept vehicles look like real cars, they are rarely functional and are often made out of clay.
3D Printed Prototypes Allow for Rapid Modification, Refinement
The product design and development process are fluid, which means prototypes have to be made quickly. Prototypes were once crude facsimiles of the finished item, but things have now changed due to advances in additive manufacturing. The latest powder bed fusion, sheet laminating and 3D printing machines are capable of producing prototype parts of exceptional quality made out of metal, polymers, and ceramics, and modern CAD software allows designers to modify and refine prototypes with just a few mouse clicks.
3D Printed Prototypes Assist in the Race to the Market
Bringing a new product to the market first can give manufacturers an edge that lasts for years, so speed is the name of the game during the development process. When prototypes were made by taking a solid block of material and then grinding, boring or drilling it down until the finished part was left, making even minor changes could take days. Refining a 3D printed prototype usually involves no more than editing a few lines of code, which can sometimes be accomplished in a matter of seconds.
Rapid Prototyping Slashes R&D Budgets, Costs to Consumers
The price manufacturers charge for their products is designed to recoup their research and development costs and make a profit. When prototyping can be done quickly and inexpensively, the final cost to the consumer will be lower. The public loves new and original products, and people are particularly enthusiastic when the latest innovation costs little more than the current outdated item.
Great chefs think very carefully about presentation because they know that we eat with our eyes first. Manufacturers also understand the importance of a strong visual impact, which is why they spend so much time thinking about the ways their new products will be packaged and displayed. Additive manufacturing companies have been creating prototype parts and products for years, and now they are also making prototype packing.
What is a Packaging Prototype?
Packaging prototypes are mock-ups that are used for display purposes or to test consumer reactions to proposed designs. When a final design is agreed upon and approved, the specifications can be sent to a packaging manufacturer.
Shelf-Ready Products Make an Impact
Unveiling a new product can be a harrowing experience for manufacturers that have invested heavily in research and development. However, displaying the item in “shelf-ready” condition could inspire consumer confidence and convince the public that the product is a finished product item and ready for sale.
Packaging prototypes can also be used to make proposed products look more appealing to potential financial backers. Traditional packaging companies are rarely interested in making one-off items unless they can be assured that a larger order will be forthcoming. Still, additive manufacturers can produce a single packaging prototype quickly and inexpensively. Prototype packaging may be shown to:
- Management and marketing teams
- Trade show visitors
- Retail chain buyers
Prototype Packaging Closes the Deal
Many manufacturers only put new products into production after they have secured orders. Meanwhile, retail chains often want to know what the item will look like on their shelves before putting pen to paper. What makes this challenging for manufacturers is that not all retailers desire that their products be packaged in the same way.
To clarify, one retailer may want to put the item on an aisle shelf, while another could see it as an impulse buy that should be placed near cash registers. Then again, some retailers may only be prepared to place a large order if they are offered unique packaging that conveys a message of exclusivity. Showing retail chain buyers images of how products will look in their stores could help close a deal, but they will not be nearly as powerful as an actual product in prototype packaging.
Additive Manufacturing Eliminates Trial and Error
The packaging designs that consumers see in retail stores or online marketplaces are usually the result of a lot of trial and error. Innovative packaging designs that marketing teams think will generate a tremendous amount of buzz are sometimes discarded in favor of a more traditional approach when consumers do not warm to the idea.
Therefore, several packaging prototypes may be needed before a final decision is made.
Additive manufacturing techniques make producing several packaging versions much easier because the processes are adaptive and no tooling is required to make changes.
ADDMAN Engineering is Committed to Your Success
At ADDMAN Engineering, we understand that we can only be successful if we help to make you successful. Our 3D printers are capable of creating several prototypes in a single run to take some of the stress out of choosing your final packaging design, and our team of 20 manufacturing companies will always be ready to help you meet the challenges of rebranding and new product launches.
To learn more about our additive manufacturing options, you can reach us by phone at (888) 266-1837. Alternatively, you can visit our website and fill out our online form, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.