On Monday, Feb. 10, Stratasys extended its J8 series with a new 3D printer, the J826, making full-color, multi-material 3D printing more accessible for more product design applications. On Tuesday, at a media luncheon with dozens of journalists from around the world, Otter Products Principal Engineer Richard Vinson said these benefits are literally visible to his team and customers.
Otter Products, LLC, provides premium accessories for mobile technology and outdoor adventures through its OtterBox, LifeProof, and Liviri brands. In fact, OtterBox is the No. 1-selling smartphone case in the United States, offering a wide variety of protective options for devices as well as outdoor products. LifeProof is the No. 1-selling waterproof case in the U.S. with protection from the elements on any adventure. (Source: NPD Group)
It’s through a commitment to innovation that the company has grown to that leadership position, and that means a steady stream of new product development projects. Particularly with mobile phone cases, there’s not much time to bring them to market, yet compromising design isn’t an option.
“With PolyJet 3D printing, we can generate color parts, including graphics, within the manufacturing tolerances of our color specifications,” Vinson says. “This ability can and has facilitated better and more through communication with key decision-makers internally and externally, ensuring expectations can be met.”
Vinson says Otter will actually 3D print 100 copies of prototypes for use in consumer insights studies, in which consumers can physically hold and experience a product early in the design phase. Getting feedback like this early, while adjustments and changes are still easy to make, is crucial and lets the company explore multiple iteration paths.
“With PolyJet, part tolerance is virtually the same as molded production parts,” Vinson says. “This allows Otter to make changes in CAD, rather than in steel tooling. It’s currently the only technology to meet Otter’s requirements for resolution and tolerances in multiple materials, let alone in multi-color prints.”
3D printing has been a journey for Otter Products, never mind for Vinson, who 3D printed his first part 25 years ago. Otter started with SLA technology as early as 2007 before turning to PolyJet technology starting in late 2012.
The company made an exciting step forward about four years ago with the addition of a Stratasys J750 full-color, multi-material 3D printer supported by GrabCAD Print software. PANTONE color validation is important to ensure they can match their colors for realistic graphic prints. “This improved trust with our customers,” Vinson says. “They know we will deliver on what they see.”
Last year, Otter Products 3D-printed 2,000 parts on the J750 alone. That’s several parts every single day!