Consumer behaviours are ever-changing. For retailers to keep up – let alone stay ahead – they have to be on the top of their game. For L’Oréal, one of the best-known beauty brands in the world, staying ahead is essential to maintain their image and reputation for innovation.
“Our consumers have changed a lot in the last three years – more than in the last 30 years,” Anne Debauge, Digital Manager of Packaging and Development at L’Oréal, says. “They now want everything, at anytime from anywhere.”
This truth means L’Oréal are always looking for ways to meet demand and improve customer experience. This led them to develop a new digital transformation program, with the aim of accelerating time to market and design processes from the inside out.
This led L’Oréal to research, trial and test a wide range of solutions. One of these was 3D printing, which the brand had used before in limited trials. The digital transformation program was the catalyst to invest properly in this exciting area of manufacturing. “For a new packaging format, the delay can be up to 15 weeks to have a spare part format to snap a cab for the transportation of a jar,” Debauge says. “[With 3D printing], we can print at home and it’s really quick for the team to begin production.”
Behind the scenes, L’Oréal shook up their technology and development to accommodate 3D printing and put it at the forefront of their process. L’Oréal realised quickly that they could move from an idea to a physical protype in a matter of days. Traditional processes, like injection moulding, can take weeks – and especially out of house.
3D printing proved so effective that L’Oréal 3D printed 14,000 packaging prototypes in 2017. In 2018, they did the same number.
A small project turned BIG
L’Oréal started out small with 3D printing. They began their journey with an Ultimaker Go. They now have 27 3D printers in the United States, Asia and Europe. They use their 3D printers to manufacture prototypes and enable creativity and innovation in the workplace.
The 3D printer they use most now is the Ultimaker S5, which is the biggest 3D printer Ultimaker do. “It’s really great; the results are very great,” Debauge said. “We have more choice about material. We have a better reproducibility of the pieces. The size of the [build] plate is bigger, so we can manage more print parts at the same time.”
The Ultimaker S5 has a 330 x 240 x 300 mm build volume, versus the 215 x 215 x 300 mm volume of the Ultimaker 3 Extended, allowing design teams to push designs further than ever before. You can also remotely monitor prints from a desktop computer or smartphone thanks to the S5’s in-built camera.
In the future, L’Oréal plan to roll out 3D printing further. They see great potential in utilising it for mass production, and in small series production for personalised products. “We want to move to a beauty-tech company,” Debauge says “With 3D printing, we will go through huge new experiences of beauty for all our consumers.”
3D printer: Ultimaker S5.
This information was first published on the Ultimaker website. All images are credited to Ultimaker. If you enjoyed this case study, you can find more like it at our manufacturing page.