Author: Wanda Lipscomb, User Experience Architect
This past week, New York City staged a runway fashion show entirely of 3-D-printed high-fashion wearable technology. The incredible technology of 3-D printing is being used everywhere to create ready-to-wear fashion, useful household items, tools, toys and games. Medical professionals are using 3-D printing to create customized hearing aids and leg braces, as well as body implants such as titanium jawbones, organs and bone scaffolding. In aerospace, NASA has tested 3-D printers that will let Mars-bound astronauts print what they need as they travel; they have also begun funding research on 3-D-printed food to feed astronauts in space. Some of the more recent uses of 3-D printing include bicycles and houses.
The F-One printed bicycle is a bespoke, quick-turnaround, titanium bicycle manufacturing process that’s getting underway at Flying Machine in Perth, Australia. Each customer is measured, and the dimensions are used to calculate the exact geometry required for the perfect fit and then the titanium parts are printed. It is anticipated that the entire process will enable the production of a frame in 10 days and complete, finished bikes to be delivered inside of three weeks at a cost of U.S. $3,150.
A researcher at the University of Southern California claims to have designed an enormous 3-D printer that could build a 2,500-square-foot home in just 24 hours. The process, known as Contour Crafting, includes a robot equipped with a nozzle that spews out concrete and can build a home based on a set computer pattern. Workers would lay down two rails for the robot to glide along and lay down cement. Once that part of the process is finished, humans would do the rest of the essential tasks such as hanging doors and installing windows. Contour Crafting could also reduce the total cost of owning a home. And it could make it easier to repair homes damaged by devastating weather events.
How 3-D Printing Works
It all starts with a concept. The first stage of 3-D printing is laying out an original idea with digital modeling software to create a virtual blueprint of the object you want to print. The program then divides the object into digital cross-sections so the printer is able to build it layer by layer. The cross-sections essentially act as guides for the printer, so that the object is the exact size and shape you want
Once the design is completed, it can be printed with a variety of materials depending on the printer: rubber, plastics, paper, polyurethane-like materials, metals and more. The material is usually sprayed, squeezed or otherwise transferred from the printer onto a platform. Then, a 3-D printer makes passes (much like an inkjet printer) over the platform, depositing layer on top of layer of material to create the finished product. This can take several hours or days depending on the size and complexity of the object.
Brand Opportunities with 3-D Printing
3-D printers may have been considered a novelty just two years ago, but the technology has become increasingly prominent not just in manufacturing, but also as an innovative marketing tool for brands.
Coca-Cola Israel Launches Its New Mini Bottle by Offering 3-D Printed Mini Versions of You
Coca-Cola wanted to introduce its new Mini Bottles in Israel and worked with Gefem Tel-Aviv on this fun 3-D printing idea. The brand invited consumers to create tiny, digital versions of themselves in a mobile app, which they then had to tend to carefully, Tamagotchi-style. A select few of those caretakers then won a trip to the Coca-Cola factory, where they were invited to turn their mini-mes into the real thing, via 3-D printing.
Belgian insurance provider DVV and Happiness Brussels showed how useful 3-D printing could be to its customers – particularly the forgetful ones. The company introduced a service called “Keysave,” rolling out next month, which allows customers to scan their keys and save the data on a secure server. Whenever they lose their keys, they can take their data to a 3-D printer and create a new one. It’s a boon not just to customers, but to the insurance company as well, since the companies lose money yearly on replacing homeowners’ locks.
Last April, Volkswagen Polo and DDB Copenhagen turned consumers into car designers. “The Polo Principle” campaign invited people to take control, via a website, of the automaker’s 3-D printer – the one used to create the original Polo model – to design their own versions of their car. Forty of the most creative ideas were 3-D printed and exhibited in Copenhagen the following May, after which the designers took their creations home. Even better, the big winner was turned into a real-life Polo.
Marketing campaigns like the ones used by Coca-Cola, DVV and Volkswagen are just the beginning of fun and memorable ways for brands to reach customers with unconventional and innovative approaches. People like and expect customized online experiences, and brands that tap into 3-D printing customization will have a unique potential to reach targeted audiences, create brand loyalty and direct sales with the proliferation of these devices.
Here are some great videos outlining in more detail how 3-D printing works: