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Making product customization possible with additive manufacturing

The ability to customize and tailor products to consumers has brought immense value to the market, and with additive manufacturing (AM), the ability to mass customize has been elevated to an entirely new level. According to McKinsey, research is showing that sales conversions increase by 22 to 30 percent when product customization is offered and consumers are willing to pay a nearly 20 percent higher price. Utilizing a digital manufacturing process, AM unlocks new customizable possibilities due to the fact that it does not require expensive tooling changes based on individual specifications.

The term “mass customization” is often used in a general sense, but understanding the difference between customization and personalization is important to note. Personalization can be described as an application that is intentionally designed for an individual user while customization generally refers to applications that give individuals the opportunity to tailor their product based on a set of predetermined features.

Three different ways to customize your products with additive manufacturing

When it comes to mass customization, there are three primary categories that applications likely fall into:

AESTHETIC

Many aesthetic features like textures, logos, or text can be tuned to an individual’s preference. The ability to create changes in surface finishes or add specific textures without tool changes is uniquely enabled by additive. Customers that desire a more personal touch can even go so far as to add their own names or personal ID’s to different applications. This type of manufacturing enables personalization and integrates user input into a each individual design.

FUNCTIONAL

Functional or physical personalization products are designed for an individual user and tend to fall into the medical use category – such as orthotics, orthodontics, and more. Because of this, customized applications such as braces or prosthetics can be specifically designed to a customer’s specifications and improve the user experience. Additive not only enables new fit and function features tailored specifically to the user, but has the capability to improve delivery speeds compared to traditional manufacturing methods – production of parts using casting or vacuum forming can take much longer to produce.

TECH-ENABLED

Empowered by additive, there are many different ways to make your parts smarter.  Additive has the ability to enable fraud detection and ERP integration as well as integrate IOT and tracking at the component level. Additionally, the ability to print unique Datamatrix or QR codes into certain parts can help simplify the supply chain load by printing unique codes containing pertinent tracking information into individual parts.

New digitally enabled workflows

With additive, the ability to mass customize has never been easier. Because of its digital nature, the workflow necessary to provide consumers with personalized parts can quick and seamless. Here’s a breakdown of how additive manufacturing facilitates the customization process.

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Examples of mass customization with additive manufacturing

From headgear to retainers, there are many applications today utilizing AM customization. Take a look at some innovative applications on the market today.

ATHLETIC HELMETS

Some of the products benefiting most from additive customization includes sports helmets. Recently, the NFL announced its partnership with Carbon ® and Riddell to produce 3D printed football helmets, tailor made to perfectly fit the shape of each individual player’s head. By doing so, players are offered better protection from head injuries such as concussions.

The cycle industry is also being introduced to new, custom fit helmets. HEXO, a company specializing in custom bike helmets, are creating personalized headgear. By implementing a honeycomb pattern uniquely enabled by additive, wearers of this helmet can be assured that their heads are fully protected.

CUSTOMIZED VEHICLES

The automotive industry is already full of customizable options for its customers, but with additive, companies like BMW are already giving owners the chance to design their own 3D printed parts for their vehicle. From side scuttles to door panels, there are a wide array of  additive options for each individual’s personal taste.

ORTHOTICS, ORTHODONTICS & MEDICAL DEVICES

The medical device industry is another market that can take advantage of customization through additive. Companies like Wiiv that are creating custom fit footwear using 3D printing, and Sonava, with their 3D printed hearing aids – each personalized to individuals’ ear canals, are able to take their products to a more personal level. With technologies like HP Multi Jet Fusion, custom orthotics and prosthetics are made possible – changing people’s lives on a daily basis.

Mass customization is taking the industry by storm – people want products tailored to themselves. With additive, mass customization has the capability to be both accurate and reliable. Talk with our team today to learn more about customization or see if your next application can be uniquely customized.