Advertorial: Additive Manufacturing Unilever iterates 50% faster with 3D printing

Editor: Advertorial

Today’s global market has created a variety of challenges for consumer brands. Products that used to be visibly unchanged for years may now be in a state of continuous evolution. The ongoing development of product design can be time-consuming and costly for companies because of the scale and processes involved.

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“By 3D printing the injection molds with Digital ABS, we’re able to achieve the high quality associated with traditional manufactured prototypes, while ensuring that the high temperatures and pressures of the injection molding process can be sustained.” — Stefano Cademartiri, R&D, CAP and prototyping specialist at Unilever.
“By 3D printing the injection molds with Digital ABS, we’re able to achieve the high quality associated with traditional manufactured prototypes, while ensuring that the high temperatures and pressures of the injection molding process can be sustained.” — Stefano Cademartiri, R&D, CAP and prototyping specialist at Unilever.
(Source: Stratasys)

This is why the Italian division of international consumer goods giant, Unilever, invested in 3D printing to make injection molds, blow molds and thermoform (vacuum) molds for accelerated prototype and part development without the need for conventional tooling.

Competitive Time and Cost Challenge

With more than 400 brands in its four divisions, Unilever needs to ensure that all are competitive, meet ever-changing product standards and differentiate themselves on the shelf. Developing and refining components for the Home Care, Personal Care, Food and Refreshment divisions is, in part, the responsibility of Unilever’s facility in Caselpusterlengo, Italy.

“The idea was to move from relying on images and 3D files to rapid prototyping machines and reduce our time to market,” explains Stefano Cademartiri, R&D, CAP and prototyping specialist at Unilever. “The new vision for the future of CAD development was to invest in a 3D printer that was easy to use and could produce fast concept prototypes using heat-resistant ABS materials.”

Localized Supply Chains

The investment in an Objet500 Connex™ 3D Printer1 helped transform the Caselpusterlengo facility from a satellite of the main design center in Port Sunlight, United Kingdom, to a much bigger player in Unilever’s €1 billion-plus R&D establishment. Cademartiri says 3D printing lets Unilver produce parts in the final materials for functional and consumer tests more quickly. “Before, we would have to wait several weeks to receive prototype parts using our traditional tooling process; not only would this lengthen lead times, it would also increase costs if iterations were required. With 3D printing, we’re now able to apply design iterations to the mold within a matter of hours, enabling us to produce prototype parts in final materials such as polypropylene much faster – often on the same day.”

Unilever uses the Objet500 Connex 3D Printer to produce injection and blow mold tools for part development across its divisions for regional and global markets. Cademartiri and his team 3D print injection mold tools in Digital ABS™, a material with high temperature resistance and toughness.

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