Established in 1899, Suntory Group is one of the oldest companies in Japan that distributes alcoholic beverages and soft drinks as well as health and wellness products locally and worldwide. Unlike other companies that outsource concept design works, Suntory has its own concept design department.
Traditionally, once a design is finalized by the concept design department, it could take between 6 to 9 months before production starts. This is because Suntory has to purchase aluminum molds from external manufacturers. This delay often means new design ideas have to be abandoned due to time constraints.
Another challenge that the concept design team faced was realizing quality designs that were both complex yet lightweight and this was particularly increasing in difficulty over the years.
In seeking out a solution, Suntory initially turned to computer simulation and a cutting machine to shorten the lead time for their design processing, but the results didn’t turn out satisfactory enough for them.
The company then flirted with the idea of using an in-house 3D printer to create molds, since resin could replace metal. Additionally, the mold surface had to be smooth enough to project an ideal plastic bottle appearance.
With those requirements in mind, Suntory settled on using the Objet Eden 260VS, a Stratasys PolyJet 3D Printer, that could utilize various types of resin and had excellent forming speed.
With the in-house 3D printer, Suntory only took as little as 3 days to complete a trial production evaluation, which was a stark contrast to the 1 ½ months it took using traditional molds. They were also able to increase the number of trial productions in a given timeframe with the use of a 3D printer and created more evaluation options for themselves.
Some package engineers were also trained in 3D CAD because of the 3D printer, which in turn allowed them to discuss 3D CAD drawings with concept designers. This resulted in a dramatic improvement in the accuracy of each evaluation.
“Because it sometimes only takes three days to complete a trial production evaluation, concept designers, marketing personnel, package engineers and product engineers can have communications based on the actual trial product and data,” said Tatsuki Kado, Supervisor of Packing Material Department, SCM Division.
The success of the 3D printed resin molds has since led to other companies within Suntory Group, like America-based Beam Suntory and Europe-based Orangina Schweppes and more to indicate their intention to introduce this technology immediately, because of the extremely short trial production cycle. There are also plans to apply the technology to Suntory’s alcoholic beverage divisions and others, as well as use it for more efficient production of tools and fixtures.