Personal care and beauty brand L’Oréal has used 3D printing many times in the last several years, for applications ranging from product design to bioprinting hair and skin. The company, which has an international portfolio of 35 diverse yet complementary brands, seems on the verge of upping its usage of the technology, as it has just chosen to use AMFG‘s Additive MES software to help streamline its AM workflow and optimize rapid prototyping at its 3D printing lab. This investment by L’Oréal in MES and workflow automation software for AM shows the faith that the brand puts in 3D printing to get the job done.
“We use 3D printing with the key focus on improving agility within the company to get products to market faster. The faster we can go from an idea to a prototype, the faster we can iterate and validate it. 3D printing helps us to speed up this process and get a better product at the end of the development cycle,” Matthew Forrester, Additive Technical Manager at L’Oréal, said in an AMFG case study. “In addition to prototyping, we’re using the technology to make parts for our plants and also to create ergonomic tools for operators, therefore improving their safety. The final area that we’re looking at is how we can apply additive manufacturing to bring added value to the customers, such as new geometries, new materials and localised production.”
The company makes thousands of prototypes each year at its 3DLab in Clichy, France, and managing this level of volume production has been tough. L’Oréal engineers had to send emails with their 3D design files and project requirements, or even bring USB drives to the lab to have their files 3D printed. 3DLab managers also had to calculate the cost and shipping of orders, which came with its own set of difficulties.
“The costing was fixed per part, which was sometimes dissuasive for smaller components,” Forrester said. “If a customer ordered several hundred parts, a special price would have to be created to reflect this. We knew that we could optimise our processes by using software for order submission and handling.”
With features such as a Supplier Integration Network, for AM supply chain coordination, and a Holistic Build Analysis Tool, for instant estimates of how full a machine build is without the use of nesting, AMFG’s MES software solution helps its clients scale their AM operations, manage their workflows, and achieve automated, streamlined processes. Specifically, L’Oréal is using the software to speed up the turnaround time for its prototypes and standardize internal order handling using data visualization tools and instant price calculation software. With AMFG’s ordering portal, L’Oréal designers and engineers will be able to track their order status, as well as order and re-order 3D printed parts with ease.
As Forrester explained in a press release, “Considering our 3D printing volumes of thousands of parts per year, investing in an additive MES has been a natural step for us. We chose AMFG for its vast functionality and the ability to customise it to our needs. ntegrating AMFG’s software allows us to automate previously manual and time-consuming processes, like 3D parts ordering. This, in turn, helps us to improve the efficiency of our 3DLabs and ensures that our engineers and designers get prototypes in the fastest way possible.”
In digitizing its workflow with AMFG’s MES software, L’Oréal engineers will be able to convert files into various other formats without the use of file conversion software, as well as analyze and repair common file errors automatically. In addition, the software’s backend system will allow the company’s 3DLab assistants to visualize and analyze 3D designs before placing an order, track incoming requests, and price parts with custom formulas.
“With the AMFG platform, we were able to implement a 3-tier part-size pricing strategy based on print time. Not only has the ability to customise the pricing of 3D parts allowed us to calculate 3D printing costs more accurately, but it also helped us to automate yet another low value-added task for the lab assistants,” Forrester said.
According to the case study, L’Oréal chose AMFG’s MES and workflow management software for its modular functionality, as well as its ability to provide custom development. The beauty brand has been using the software for nearly a year, and L’Oréal’s 3DLab team has made note of several improvements, such as better coordination of internal processes, more flexibility in the internal ordering process, increased turnaround of prototypes, enhanced operations visibility, and automation of steps that were previously manual.
“Rapid prototyping remains the most common 3D printing use case. RP departments at large companies, like L’Oréal, face a lot of challenges when it comes to submitting and managing 3D printing requests. Our workflow automation software helps to reduce the time spent on manual submission tasks and automates the process of analysing and pricing AM orders,” said Danny Winn, VP of Growth and Innovation at AMFG. “We’re honoured to partner with L’Oréal and provide our workflow automation solution that helps them streamline their rapid prototyping workflow.”
According to a recent report by SmarTech Analysis, “Additive Manufacturing in the Factory of the Future: Opportunities and Markets,” automation in both distributed AM networks and local AM processes is a “critical issue.” The report shows how 3D printing, post-processing, and automation can lead to lower fixed costs and smaller manufacturing footprints.
“AMFG’s MES software has simplified our 3D printing workflow and given our engineers and 3DLab managers access to powerful tools, which they didn’t have before,” Forrester concluded. “We can safely say that AMFG’s solutions have enabled us to produce prototypes faster, taking our lab to the next level of productivity and efficiency.”
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