The Timberland Company is using 3D printing technology from Z Corporation in their range of outdoor-inspired footwear. Increasingly prevalent in iterative product development, 3D printers produce tangible physical models from computer-aided design files much as document printers produce business letters from word-processing files. Timberland’s ZPrinter 650 3d printer produces multicolor 3D models, which are used in refining design concepts.
Timberland invested in the ZPrinter 650 3d printer after a formal financial impact analysis that proved ZPrinting is more affordable than comparable technologies. According to Ringdahl, it has distinct advantages in low printer price, software, consumable materials and throughput. “We used to hire an artisan or service provider to make our models, and it typically took two weeks to receive the finished goods,” said Ringdahl.
“Now we simply press ‘print,’ remove our models from the ZPrinter, and continue to move our product concepts to market. Every time we print, we shorten the development cycle and help get new styles to consumers while they’re hot. That’s typically six months earlier than if we still outsourced our models, and at a fraction of the cost.”
The 3d printers purchased by Timberland have resulted in the following benefits and outcomes:
- 3d printing has paid for itself quickly by reducing the cost of each model by a factor of ten ($100 in material versus $1,000 spent on a contractor)
- Cut travel costs to Asia by 10 percent annually, also a result of improved design communication
- The use of 3d printing has reduced Timberland’s mold scrap volume 20 percent by improving communication internally and with manufacturing partners
- 3d printing has enabled more productive design reviews earlier in development cycles, when a course correction is least expensive
- The use of 3d printing from Z corporation has assisted in bolstering sales by improving designs and putting realistic prototypes in the hands of sales representatives and prospects