The industry of packaging and packaging systems has always been a sector of high production, high demand, and of course in constant change, because the brands we know in the supermarket, department stores or even in a restaurant always looking for new and better conditions for their products and, therefore, maintain the satisfaction of their clients at the best possible level.
The packaging sector is looking for new ways to do things as it is no more profitable to build a tool to produce packaging when it comes to prototypes and you have to be fast in delivery. That’s where 3D printing comes into play, which is also known as “rapid prototyping”.
How 3D printing will impact the market?
According to the report published in June 2015 by “Global 3D Printers Market Forecast and Opportunities, 2020” it is estimated that the 3D printing market grows at a compound annual growth rate of more than 31% until 2020 throughout the world. On the other hand, Wohlers Report 2019 Forecasts $35.6 Billion In 3D Printing Industry Growth By 2024.
If you go by the data presented by Packaging Digest and Smithers Pira, by 2025 3D printing is set to reach the mark of $49 billion, globally. A survey conducted by PWC clearly shows the belief of industry giants in the 3D printing technology. While 70% of companies believe that obsolete parts are the next target for 3D printing, 57% believe that 3D printing will soon take over the production of after-market parts.
And within industries that seek to take advantage of additive manufacturing, packaging companies top the list.
How 3D Printing is Encouraging Packaging Industry
The managers of packaging companies look at the use of 3D printing as a beneficial tool for the production of prototypes, moulds and machinery parts, as the owners of the companies that buy containers need to carry out marketing studies and design reviews in a short period of time, so 3D printing is the ideal solution in such cases. The customer can see if he likes the container or not and make modifications on the prototype.
The packaging companies working with the 3D printing technology are obtaining strong advantages over their competitors as the companies buying the packaging appreciate seeing something more than a design on a screen. Having a prototype in your hands, feeling the weight, the texture gives much more confidence and you can also make changes quite easily and quickly. In addition, this not only affects saving time and costs but also reduces emissions and works reducing the environmental impact.
3D printing technology accelerates the creative process of packaging
The Design and Advanced Technologies department of Quadpack has invested more than 200,000 euros in the most innovative 3D printing technology in its UK research and development facilities.
They use 3d printing to accelerate the initial phases of custom packaging design and development, in connection to helping to test innovative ideas.
The department has begun to use this new machine in three types of model making.
- The prototypes help to test ideas for new products in Quadpack’s range of Q-Line packaging solutions.
- Development samples are created for custom models for clients.
- At a stage closer to production, test casts can be printed for small-scale tests of the final product in the final material. The test moulds are compatible with the production lines of the injection moulding plant of Quadpack Plastics.
Jeremy Garrard, director of Design and Advanced Technologies, commented: “Our goal is to offer truly innovative products. With 3D models and test moulds, we can transform ideas into reality faster, which helps us develop the right products for our Q-Line range with an efficient and faster industrialization process. “
3D printed plastic clips made for packaging machinery can also solve problems for manufacturers. According to igus, the cosmetic producer Carecos Kosmetik GmbH saved around 85% of the production cost and 70% of the manufacturing time while using the supplier’s I150 iglide in 3D printing, as compared to the previous usage of aluminium parts. “3D printed calipers are also seven times lighter than metal calipers”, says igus.
In the development process of its new LAB + ASEP TECH blowing / filling / sealing machine, Weiler Engineering Inc. took 3D printing into account. Joe Immordino, Weiler’s Engineering Director mentions, “the pace of technological change has been constantly increasing, so many innovations have been used to improve the design of our equipment.”
“Computer-aided drafting, along with simulation and change control, remains the core of the engineering process, while 3D printers and laser-based technologies are becoming more frequent in design. The exchange of 3D electronic design information among engineers, suppliers, manufacturers, quality control, assemblers and technicians has improved the communication process between the interested parties,” he adds.
On the other hand, Jim Butschli, Editor of Healthcare Packaging mentions, beyond its therapeutic uses for patients, 3D printing is also involved in the packaging space. With 3D printing, you can develop multiple parts for packaging machinery.
The FDA recognizes that “advances in materials science, digital health, 3D printing and other technologies continue to drive an unprecedented invention period for medical devices.”
This perspective comes from a November 26, 2018 statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and from Jeff Shuren, director of the Radiological Health and Devices Center, which describes new transformational steps to modernize the FDA 510 (k) program, to advance in the review of the safety and effectiveness of medical devices.
The report by FDA also mentions that 3D printing can be used to reduce waste by using fewer raw materials and requires fewer manufacturing steps.
New and better scopes in the creation and conception of ideas
The use of devices that allow materializing an idea or a model created from a three-dimensional design program has allowed new and better scopes in the creation and conception phase of new products and services:
#1 Design to test
The areas of product design and engineering now have the possibility of converting a new packaging (or new presentation) into a final real model that allows evaluating the dimensions, the net content, if geometrically it is producible by injection or blow extrusion, it allows to measure the manoeuvrability or ergonomics with different users, you can incorporate closed systems (covers, seals, shrink sleeves) to determine their final appearance, and even get dressed with a graphic, legal and visual proposal that helps the collaborators of the marketing area to make the final decisions about the product, the visual impact, the complete communication avoiding the high costs of a mold or pilot production.
Also, applications are made with designs of new moulds or adjustments to products in the market, although these do not manage to give a high volume of “samples” in the actual conditions of packaging.
#2 Feasibility of filling
The new packaging designs prototyped in three-dimensional printing allow evaluating the systems of filling on site, or having the volumetric hollows analyzed in the production line. Due to this the feasibility or the necessary adjustments can be made, 3D designs can be modified and in a few hours have the new containers ready.
This can have a big impact on the efficiency of the packaging systems, as earlier for many years the tests were not completely real, or are intended for the simulation of the process, or investments in low-cost moulds. Now with the 3D printing technology tests can be run on real containers.
#3 Total volume
The 3D printed packages allow understanding the real volume, durability and structure of the containers. It also helps to know if the design will maintain the originally proposed content or some small adjustments would have to be made. This translates into better response times for new packaging designs.
Read More: 3d Technology and the Automotive industry
Also, the printed applications of the new moulds are made through three-dimensional simulation and scanning processes to determine the feasibility of production and even to innovate closure systems, calculate thicknesses, types of packaging structure and adaptability in the production line.
3D printing is the present and the future of packaging industry, as many applications and variants are explored today regarding the primary function of a container that is to contain, protect and transport a product efficiently and adequately.
It is also important to consider that nowadays discarded containers serve as raw material for new ones. This should be a matter of time before this recycling gets implemented and thereafter transcends not only in the industry but with the final consumers who could go to the store to buy their favourite drink, and instead of throwing away the container, decompose it to obtain a filament ready to be applied to a new printed product.
The final reflection is based on the limits that in the areas of Research and Development, Design, Engineering and Marketing we can put. While it is true that one of the ultimate functions of packaging is that the product reaches our consumer intact, we must also take advantage of the technological advances that we have today to facilitate the task and be at the forefront of the processes, that too at low cost.