Home > Unilever leverages 3D printing injection moulds, slashing lead times for prototype parts by 40%

Unilever leverages 3D printing injection moulds, slashing lead times for prototype parts by 40%

Supplier News
article image With Stratasys 3D printing, Unilever is able to produce prototype parts in the final material for testing, 40% faster

Unilever has been able to cut lead times for prototyping by introducing the PolyJet 3D printing technology from Stratasys into their manufacturing process.

A world-leading provider of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions, Stratasys revealed that the Italian division of international consumer goods giant, Unilever was able to cut lead times for prototype parts by 40% after utilising PolyJet 3D printed injection moulding tools to produce prototype parts significantly faster than traditional tooling methods.

Unilever is using its Stratasys Objet500 Connex multi-material 3D production system to produce injection mould tools for its household care and laundry goods divisions, with a run of around 50 units for a wide variety of prototype parts such as bottle caps, closures and toilet rim blocks.

Stefano Cademartiri, R&D, CAD and Prototyping Specialist at Unilever explains that Stratasys 3D printing technology allows them to design and print a variety of injection moulds for different parts that can undergo functional and consumer testing, all on the same day.

The traditional tooling process required them to wait several weeks to receive prototype parts, stretching lead times and increasing costs if iterations were required. However, Stratasys’ 3D printing technology is enabling Unilever to apply design iterations to the mould within a matter of hours, and produce prototype parts in final materials such as polypropylene, 40% faster than before.

Using the new Stratasys Objet500 Connex multi-material 3D production system from Italian reseller, Overmach, Unilever prints its injection mould tools in Digital ABS, a material renowned for its high temperature resistance and toughness, especially in injection moulding applications.

According to Cademartiri, by 3D printing the injection moulds in Digital ABS, Unilever is able to retain the high quality associated with traditionally manufactured prototypes, with the injection mould tools also enduring the high temperatures and pressures of the injection moulding machine at a significantly reduced cost and turnaround time.

Unilever also produces thermoforming mould prototypes on its FDM-based Fortus 360mc 3D production system using ABS-M30 production-grade plastic. This enables the company to produce realistic moulds with flexible strength that can also endure functional testing, crucial in developing the final thermoforming mould.

The company was earlier outsourcing their thermoforming requirements, leading to significant labour costs and lengthy lead times. Since the introduction of the 3D printer, Unilever accomplishes this work in-house, 3D printing the parts themselves, reducing lead times in the conceptual phase by approximately 35%, enhancing the overall manufacturing process, and allowing quick evaluation of designs before committing significant investment towards mass production.

Nadav Sella, Senior Manager - Manufacturing Tools at Stratasys adds that there is a growing trend among their customers to leverage Stratasys’ additive manufacturing systems as a manufacturing tool for a wider range of applications in addition to direct prototyping. 

Newsletter sign-up

The latest products and news delivered to your inbox