First there was the steam engine, then the electric motor and more recently industrial robots. Now another new technology is set to transform many areas of manufacturing– 3D printing.
For the cosmetics industry, the technology will make the biggest impact on packaging, and if one of the earliest adopters is correct in her prediction: “3D printing is set to change the world and will prove to be the future for both design and manufacturing.”
This is the firm belief of Antoinette van den Berg, founder and head of Future-Touch, an Amsterdam-based design studio that is focused on tapping into future trends through harnessing both innovation and technology.
Specializing in pin-pointing future industry trends, van den Berg has already had much success, particularly in the color cosmetics segment, where she has repeatedly predicted some of the biggest trends in the category, most recently color cosmetics for men.
Innovating for the future
“My business innovates for the future, which means we harness both technology alongside future trends and get the absolute maximum out of the two to create the best possible concept,” she told Cosmetics Design in an exclusive interview.
Although 3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s, it has only been incorporated into modern manufacturing processes in the past few years, thanks mainly to advances in the technology behind the machinery.
In short, it is a process of making a three dimensional solid object of virtually any shape, by using a layering process through using an extremely wide variety of malleable materials. The hardware is based around an industrial robot that is adapted to carry out an additive process under computer control.
Current data suggests that this technology is more than just a passing fad, too. According to market research company Canalys, the global supply, manufacture and services for 3D printers is currently valued at around $2.5bn, but is set to explode in the coming years, and could be worth $16.2bn by 2018.
3D printing needs a strategic approach
However, when it comes to the cosmetics industry, use of this technology is likely to be best incorporated through a strategic and well-thought-out process.
“This 3D printing technology is absolutely fascinating, but it needs a highly focused vision to implement and incorporate it in to the cosmetics manufacturing process correctly and that is our job,” said van den Berg.
As it happens, her native country of Holland has turned out to be a real hub for the development of 3D printing technology, something that van den Berg believes is down to the fact that there have been a number of visionary designers and companies that have incorporated it into their businesses.
“Where the real advantage lies is in the development process for cosmetics containers. We can design and then produce models quickly and easily, stretching the design possibilities to new limits.
“Likewise, for the consumer, this fits in with the custom-made trend, which basically means more flexible product development that is tailor-made to highly individual needs, something that is manifesting itself in both formulation and packaging.”
And 3D printing can be good for the environment
Another significant advantage is the fact that the technology serves as a highly efficient manufacturing process that can use a host of recycled or eco-friendly materials, which ultimately is likely to make it ecologically sound.
“Not only does this process cut down on the logistical elements involved in manufacturing several separate packaging components, it also allows us to work freely with eco-friendly materials such as bioplastics,” said van den Berg.
“Besides this, there is also the possibility that 3D printers could also eventually be used to make other 3D printers. That idea is pretty mind blowing in itself!”