For a long time it has been known that traditional plastic manufacturing techniques like injection moulding cannot flexibly scale to deliver a production line of custom products. Injection moulding is cheap and can mass produce parts quickly, but it’s a challenge to scale it up to manufacture custom products like shaving handles.
Gillette’s new Razor Maker concept allows the Gillette team to design new handles and print them in 24-hours. If the shaving handles pass rigorous tests, then they become available for purchase the next day on the website. Depending on the design, customers can then personalise their handle, although even if they don’t, they’ll have a shaving handle that’s different to the mainstream. Each and every handle is a unique product.
The Formlabs Form 2 was the obvious choice for this task because it is the best desktop stereolithography 3D printer on the market. FFF wasn’t a viable technology for this application because the handles have complex geometries which a fused filament fabrication 3D printer would struggle to reproduce. SLA was the only choice to create true-to-design models of retail quality, which is an important point since these handles go on sale from the print bed with minimal post-processing.
Discussing the Development with Plastics Technology, Dávid Lakatos of Formlabs, said: “That’s one of the places where 3D printing offers a huge benefit—with material developments and automation—we’re seeing the increasing ability to scale the manufacturing of custom products,” he says. “We hope to see mass customization appearing more regularly in consumer products, but it’s forecast to make a big impact in professional markets where consumers can reap the benefits, like in healthcare- and dental-wear models, surgical guides and other end-use products that need to be custom to a persons body.”
Lankos believes 3D printing is driving new efficiencies on the production line and enabling design teams to save time and money, one example being printing surrogate parts to speed up time to market.
“Mass customization is the leading trend given its consumer appeal. We’re also seeing 3D printing used in production line efficiency by creating jigs and fixtures, which means producing manufacturing tooling in-house vs. outsourcing it, saving both time and money; and in manufacturing validation—by printing surrogate parts instead of testing with final pieces you can increase speed to market, shorten feedback loops, and iterate faster on designs,” he says.
Here’s a picture of our favourite handle from the range, the “Wave”:
If you liked this 3D printing story, check out our product design page where you’ll find plenty more stories like this. You might find this story about 3D printing a diving camera with the Form 2 interesting.