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Companies have come up with different variations for this concept, with respect to how they implement it in their product lines.
Adaptive customizers allow certain modification possibilities to customers. Collaborative customizers, on the other hand, encourage customers to articulate their needs in-depth and to offer products suited to them. In the end, mass customization could be anything between choosing car colors to adapting eyewear to one’s face shape.
The bottom line of mass-customization is about giving customers the ability to participate in the creation process and integrating this input on a mass-production scale.
In turn, choosing this approach entails certain challenges, as it relies on a very efficient and lean supply chain set-up, as well as a flexible, generally automated production process.
Customers are changing, what we used to consider as one group of consumers isn’t homogeneous anymore. Based on this belief, products may not appeal to masses the way they used to. According to some business theorists, mass-customization is the key to redesigning this ageing mass-production approach.
On the customer’s side, mass-customization empowers them with the possibility to tune products to their suiting, and allow them to feel that they are recognized as individuals.
For the manufacturer, mass-customization brings about inventory and waste reduction. Indeed, this approach to business hinges on a lean manufacturing pace and supply chain, while mass-producing standardized goods may result in production overruns and additional costs.
Along with this advantage, mass-customization is of course important to brands as it drives differentiation.
What makes the shift towards this approach challenging, is that most production processes are well-designed to produce standard goods on a large scale, but can hardly cope with the variations that mass-customization involve.
Manually changing the product requires an impossible amount of labour, and thus, a large increase in labour costs. Such an increase, that one may not be able to succeed as a business if one wishes to provide customization to many or all customers.
Changing a mould or a machine’s production style is of course possible, but it wouldn’t allow businesses to customize items on a large scale. Hence before going for mass-customization, it is of course paramount to identify which features of a product can easily be customized, and those which can’t. Proposing different finishing options can, to that end, be a sound way of implementing mass customization.
When it comes to mass-customization, Additive Manufacturing presents interesting economic benefits. 3D printing does not require any moulds or specific tools that normally are needed for traditional manufacturing methods. With the set-up of the right digital tools, the customization choices that customers make can be implemented within the 3D file straight away, and then go to production.
Because the production process costs the same for either 1 or 1000 3D printed objects, mass-customized products can be 3D printed without having any bearing on costs.
Companies across sectors have already perceived the benefits of mass-customization and 3D printing. Here are some examples of very innovative projects that this technology made possible, to boost your creativity:
Credits: Poltrona Frau
The exclusive Italian furniture company, Poltrona Frau, is one example of a company that makes good use of 3D printing for mass customization and allows customers to customize the furniture pieces themselves. Poltrona Frau offers customers a 3D tool on the website for them to visualize their furniture and then to be able to customize it. Because high-end furniture companies like Poltrona Frau already implemented manual customization even before the use of 3D printing, 3D printing allowed then for them to have a manufacturing technique that is faster and reduces labour (costs) in general.
Credits: MINI Yours Customized
Mass customisation can even be implemented in the automotive industry. For BMW’s MINI series, the MINI Yours Customized service was brought into existence for BMW MINI users. This service is a fine-tuned and fully implemented mass customization service. A new online shop was set up where clients can indicate the customized changes they would like to have implemented for specific parts of the BMW MINI – such as the door handle or parts of the side plate. These customized parts are designed to the client’s creative style and made from the same high-quality materials that the actual car itself is made from.
Staying within the automotive industry, Skoda’s mass customized 3D project is one to mention as well as it was part of their marketing strategy. In order to increase product awareness and traffic of their (partnered) car dealerships, Skoda invites clients to their website and lets them create a customized Skoda Fabia with a 3D modelling window implemented in their UI. The website and UI for this project were devised by Shivacom and our team at Sculpteo were in charge of 3D printing the customized Skoda models. This customized Fabia will then be produced but in pocket format. The possible client can then pick up the customized Fabia at one of the dealerships where he/she then experiences a real-life-test drive with a Fabia model: A perfect example of experience economy where customers try something out before purchasing and thus increasing the likelihood of an actual purchase.
Earphone producer Normal makes customized 3D printed earphones. The customization is done in a specific way. By downloading their app, one can take a picture of one’s ear, then upload it to the app which then allows the user to receive custom earbuds, fitted to their ear size and comfort preference. The picture of the ear itself is merely 2D but Normal is able to produce a custom-fit pair of earphones within 48 hours.
Mass customization is becoming a great asset for the medical sector, giving new perspectives and opportunities to healthcare workers. For example, Additive manufacturing became a real alternative for the creation of orthosis and prosthetics. Thanks to mass customization and the freedom of design allowed by 3D printing, it is possible to create medical aids perfectly adapted to the patient’s morphology and needs.
At Sculpteo, we are working with several companies creating orthotics and prosthetics to help patients live a better life.
Obviously, these examples of 3D printing mass-customized products are just a few. With professional finishing options and more than 20 Additive Manufacturing materials, Sculpteo enables you to customize products in many ways. Upload your 3D file on our online 3D printing platform or get in touch with our sales team and discover how your products can be mass-customized with Additive Manufacturing.
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