Mobile phones with identical features are made by the millions. Same case, same glass, same antennas, same – well, you get the idea.
But what was the first thing that you did with every mobile phone you have owned?
You turned on the phone, created a unique username and password, and then proceeded to personalize it. You deleted apps, added apps, moved icons around and more.
The result? A mobile phone like no other phone anywhere.
So why do consumer goods companies insist on making one-size-fits-all products? The answer lies in how new products are developed.
Marketers survey customers to learn their preferences. They collect the data, find the common elements that most customers want and then submit a feature set to engineering. Engineering looks at the feature set and tosses out elements that are not possible with existing technology. Then manufacturing management looks at the design and says “Well, we have to toss out these features if you want to make money.” The stripped-down product is designed for manufacturing, not the customer.
The result is lowest common denominator product design.
Sometimes that is a good thing. We want assurance that the taste of a given brand’s soda or beer will be the same no matter where we buy it. And the value of many plastic and metal goods is not enhanced by customization. Nuts and bolts are standardized for a good reason.
Yet you and millions of other people want unique items. I recently toured the BMW factory in Spartanburg SC (https://www.bmwgroup-plants.com/spartanburg/en.html).
Every single vehicle coming off the production line is built to order. None are made in bulk to fill an imaginary pipeline. The order may be placed by a dealer to have on the lot and the dealer may order several identical vehicles, sure.
But the buyer can – and many do – specify exactly how their car will be equipped.
3D printing enables the shift “from design for manufacturing to manufacturing the ideal design.” Now we can listen to the customer and produce what they need and want. Not a compromise but goods with the features they ask for.
Think about your mobile phone, your television, your computer, your tablet. You take advantage of the devices’ digital capabilities to personalize them. More and more, the same will hold true with physical goods – customization enabled by 3D printing.
We are here to provide insight and advice as you enable 3D printing to manufacture the ideal designs that customers are asking for.