Unilever's 3D printers cut prototype production time by nearly half

Unilever has almost halved production time for its well-known household care and laundry goods packaging moulds using Stratasy's 3D printing.

The firm, which owns brands like Surf, Comfort, Hellmanns and Domestos, has seen a 40 percent time reduction since using Stratasys Objet500 Connex Multi-material 3D production system to produce moulds for bottle caps, closures and toilet rim blocks in its Italian factories.

Stefano Cademartiri, computer assisted design and prototyping specialist at Unilever, said that using 3D printing, Unliever "can design and print a variety of injection moulds for different parts that can undergo functional and consumer testing, all on the same day."

Before, the production team would have to wait several weeks before prototype parts were ready using the traditional tooling process.

"Not only would this lengthen lead times, it would also increase costs if iterations were required. With 3D printing we're now able to apply design iterations to the mould within a matter of hours, enabling us to produce prototype parts in final materials such as polypropylene, 40 percent faster than before."

By using 3D printing, Unilever is able to bring production processes like thermoforming in-house, cutting labour costs as well as lead times.

"The technology has enhanced our overall manufacturing process, allowing us to evaluate our designs quickly and eliminate those that are not suitable, before committing significant investment towards mass production," Cademartiri added.

Stratasys, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Rehovot, Israel, owns subsidiary MakerBot, the popular consumer 3D printer.

Unilever, which predominantly uses SAP across its international quarters, was the only UK firm to appear on the list of the world's 50 most innovative companies last year.


Margi Murphy

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