Offering personalized experiences helps brands create emotional connections with their customers. On digital platforms, customization is everywhere. Consumers have grown used to experiences that address them directly and reflect their taste and preferences.
Physical products, constrained by the rigidity of traditional manufacturing, haven’t caught up.
New technologies are changing this paradigm, opening opportunities to skirt costs traditionally tied to producing thousands of custom parts. Now, it’s possible to connect the power of personalized digital experiences to physical products, and, ultimately, forge deeper personal connections with consumers.
Razor manufacturer Gillette is at the forefront of this wave by piloting its Razor Maker™ concept—a platform that serves as one of the first examples of direct-to-consumer, end-use 3D printed parts.
Using Formlabs Form 2 3D printers as its production engine, Razor Maker™ gives consumers the power to create and order customized 3D printed razor handles, with the choice of 48 different designs (and counting), a variety of colors, and the option to add custom text.
“Our partnership with Formlabs, and the power of their 3D printers, enable consumers to have a say on how their razors should look. We are excited to work with our Boston neighbors to pilot this breakthrough concept of customization,” said Donato Diez, global brand manager for Gillette and Razor Maker™ co-founder.
Learn how Razor Maker™ uses 3D printing to produce unique products, and how additive manufacturing can catalyze business transformation.
Unlocking Design Freedom and the Power of Personalization
The Razor Maker™ concept unleashes design freedom from designer’s desk to final product, and offers a glimpse into the future of mass-customized products.
“Combining our best shaving technology with the power and flexibility of 3D printing opens up a whole new world of product design possibilities,” said Rob Johnson, design engineer and Razor Maker™ co-founder.
With 3D printing, complexity and variety are “free”; a 3D printer takes no more time, energy, or material to manufacture a complex shape than a simple one, and zero tooling means printing a variety of designs requires no extra production costs.
Designers drew inspiration from geometries found in nature, architecture, and technology to create intricate shapes that would be difficult or impossible to realize through traditional manufacturing.
“It allows us to think about form in a way that was never possible before,” said Rory McGarry, industrial design lead at Razor Maker™. “In a traditional sense, we could only do one or two razor designs a year, whereas now we can have an idea, create it in 3D, print it, look at it, adjust it, and say that’s it.”
Ultimately, the absence of design constraints fuels the ability to offer consumers freedom of choice. In a market saturated by mass-produced goods, the goal of Razor Maker™ is to offer consumers the chance to make razors that are completely their own.
“We know consumers today are looking for brands that innovate in ways that let them express themselves – and that’s exactly what this pilot is all about,” said Evan Smith, global product manager for Razor Maker™.
A Workflow for Custom Manufacturing
Pursuing such a high level of customization for Razor Maker™ required the team to completely rethink their approach to manufacturing.
The initial steps in the process are completely digital: a consumer customizes a unique handle through the Razor Maker™ website and the resulting design is converted into a 3D file. Multiple design files are then sent to a 3D printer to be simultaneously printed in a single batch. Each handle is then washed, post-cured, coated, and assembled before being shipped directly to a consumer’s door.
Ease of customization is an inherent advantage of 3D printing. The technology removes the need for tooling, requiring no up-front investment in molds and eliminating the exponential costs of producing a variety of complex designs. Plus, scaling custom manufacturing can be as easy as adding more printers. Gillette is also experimenting with automating 3D printing production processes, working with Formlabs as one of the first testers of Form Cell, a technology demonstration exploring the future of 3D printing in production environments.
More and more manufacturers are integrating technologies like desktop stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing into production workflows. Watch our webinar to explore five ways to apply 3D printing in manufacturing environments.
“The Razor Maker™ concept allows us to create a new design, print and test it, and then the next day that design becomes a new handle available on the website,” Johnson said. “That was never possible before.”
Gillette continues to explore new avenues of customization within the Razor Maker concept. In the fall of 2019, Gillette offered three special edition razors printed on the Form 2. This type of small batch production just isn’t feasible under traditional manufacturing methods. 3D printing allows the team to come up with new ideas, such as a razor to celebrate the moon landing, and bring a product to market in a much shorter timeframe than ever before.
Rethinking Production, and Business Models
New technology alone isn’t enough to transform manufacturing. Companies like Gillette are leveraging 3D printing to explore entirely new business models that change the way they work across the entire product lifecycle, from design through production.
“For Gillette, piloting Razor Maker™ represents a crucial step in our customization journey where new technology and new business models must come together in order to deliver products that are as unique as our consumers,” Diez said.
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