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© nikkytok / fotolia.com

3D Printing in the Packaging Industry

July 2015 – Experts from management consultancy McKinsey view the three-dimensional manufacturing process as a pioneering technology of the future in the cosmetics sector. Using so-called Multi Packaging Solutions individual packaging designs can be manufactured specifically in accordance with customer wishes and various design prototypes can be produced. However, this approach has so far only worked for one-off pieces like glass bottles or decorative elements for packaging closures; mass production is for the time being too time consuming and costly.

Additive manufacturing

3D printing has not asserted itself yet for private usage but industrial applications increasingly rely on this manufacturing method for physical objects. Experts from management consultancy McKinsey and packaging producer Multi Packaging Solutions consider the additive manufacturing process – where any object can be produced by adding individual layers of material on top of each other – the technology of the future for the cosmetics industry. There are no limits to shape; authentic prototypes of bottles and jars in glass but also metal and other materials can be generated time and cost-efficiently for upstream suppliers to the cosmetics industry. This one-off production allows designers and packaging producers to fulfil individual customer requests and produce decorative elements for packaging materials and closures true to detail.

Benefits and drawbacks

Additive manufacturing processes permit product functionality to be tested and changed in line with needs already during the development stages of new packaging thereby speeding up innovation cycles. It is true that this also gives smaller companies the opportunity to present true-to-life models to potential investors. But the investment in a high-quality printer as well as the training of skilled operators for 3D printing machines also requires large investment. While one-off pieces can be produced effectively and at low cost the mass production of large-volume glass bottles for immediate use is not yet possible. Only a down-stream burning process ensures thermal stability. Consequently, 3D printing currently only supplements the conventional production of cosmetic articles despite its growing popularity.

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