Stratasys Blog

3D Printing: Supporting Excellence in Design for Consumer Products

We all love a well-designed product. Years ago, design was reserved for high-end sports cars or the fashion runway. But today, it is tied into every purchase decision a consumer makes. Products not only must work well, but look great and express who we are as a consumer. The ushering in of design-led product development by companies like Apple, Google, Nike, and Ford has created a new requirement to succeed in today’s consumer goods space: Excellence in design.

Almost everyone would admit they’ve made purchase decisions based on products with better design. McKinsey’s October 2018 report shows companies focusing on design outperform the average. So, if good design equals good business and happy customers – why do some companies get it right and others don’t?

In every step in the design processes – from ideation and concepting to detailed design iteration and final design approval – it’s important to communicate clearly with a broader team and reach decisions quickly. 3D printing can help bring designers and executive decision-makers into alignment faster.

For instance, designers want to test design alternatives early, and have time to explore ideas before a decision is made. Companies need the real design with the right color and feel. They’re demanding an ability to communicate about designs easily with teams from around the world. They want stakeholders to understand design intent so they don’t have to say, “imagine if” or “it will look just like the rendering but without the…” Most importantly, each wants the design envisioned as the one the manufacturing team can produce.

3D printing has been helping make designs more real than what you can see on a screen or a page and – have been much faster than other modeling approaches. But many are still using 3D printing with single color, thick lines, and hard edges.

Fortunately, 3D printed prototypes have finally advanced to incorporate fast, accurate, full-color printing that can be an ideal tool for improving the design process.

Advanced 3D printing technology means designers no longer need to carve out of foam or send a part to be hand painted to achieve realism. Requesting prototypes from manufactures half the world away and waiting weeks to get it back just isn’t necessary any more. Advanced consumer goods companies shouldn’t be limited in the number of prototypes to show internal stakeholders, focus groups, or retailers. 3D printing today is cost effective and time efficient, enabling designers to print hundreds of prototypes in full-color and multiple materials in the time it would take to send a single prototype off for hand painting, or to a manufacturer located overseas.

It’s not just about cost-savings and getting new products to market faster:  Today’s design driven companies must find ways to achieve better designs. Saving time through 3D printing means talented designers spend more time designing. Printing models early in the concept design phase allows a designer to test many alternatives, sometimes 5x to 10x the number they can test traditionally. More design iterations means more design elements to consider. When good designers consider more options, it usually leads to a more robust design.

Similarly, 3D printing numerous models during the detailed design stage – exploring options in color, texture, and finish – makes it easier to iterate the most important elements. The ability to quickly iterate to get Voice of Customer alone could be a difference-maker.

Just imagine a scenario where companies hold a focus group on Monday morning, gathering feedback and iterating on the design Monday afternoon, 3D printing new models overnight, and holding a new focus group on Tuesday. This accomplishes in two days what would have taken two weeks or more without a 3D printer.

Once a design is chosen, the biggest hurdle becomes executive and retailer approval. The power to cost-effectively give decision-makers multiple high-fidelity models that look the same is a powerful benefit of 3D printing. Communicating design intent with a 3D printed model makes it easier to refine great designs with feedback from others and speeds approval stages.

3D printing has forever changed the design process – finally giving companies the improvements they demand. Tapping into 3D printing, they can now elevate designs – and get products to market faster.

Begin exploring how 3D printing can transform your business. Learn more about Stratasys solutions for consumer products – today!

Jerron Nanneman

Jerron Nanneman

Jerron Nanneman currently serves as Director of Vertical Marketing - Design/Consumer Goods at Stratasys. He brings nearly two decades of marketing and consumer industry expertise, including work at Target and 3M.

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