The reason why 3-D printing is so innovative is because it can create a product using additive manufacturing, which is the process of adding layer upon layer of a material to form a design generated on a computer.
Most of the time, products are made using subtractive manufacturing, which, as you can probably guess, is the complete opposite of additive manufacturing. Subtractive manufacturing is the stripping, cutting, and breaking down of raw materials to put together a product. In 3-D printers such as the Makerbot, the machine melts down plastic known as PLA filaments and creates a product by layering the hot plastic on top of each other. It follows the design that is inputted by a computer.
Why is this important?
3-D printing can provide a faster and cheaper alternative to manufacturing products, such as medical implants, plastic prototypes for engineers and designers, and even jet engines. Since 3-D printing relies on computer-aided design (CAD) programs, this allows for a great degree of customization. If this method was brought more into the advertising world, it can be an incredible way to engage with clients, consumers, and other agencies.
Creative companies that already implemented 3-D printing
DVV / Belgian Insurance provider
Companies lose money yearly on replacing the locks of homeowners who forget where they put their house keys. DVV and Happy Brussels teamed up to introduce a service called “Key Save” that allows consumers to preemptively scan their keys and save the design. That way when a Key Save customer loses their key, they can download the file and get another key printed at a local 3-D print shop.
Cons: What if the print shop is closed? Since the design file is uploaded to a secure online database, does the customer always need to have internet or cellular data turned on? Doesn’t that mean that the database company has the keys to all the household addresses of their customers?
Pros: There is always a copy of your key if you lose it.
Barnardos / U.K. homeless charity organization
Over 75,000 homeless people spend their Christmas time on the streets in the UK. With the 3-D printing technology, Barnardos and BBH London rewarded donors to their “Home for Christmas” campaign with snow globes that included a miniature printed version of the donor’s home inside. This was to remind families of how lucky they were to have a place to call home for the holidays.
Cons: This was a highly personal giveaway item.
Pros: This was a highly personal giveaway item.
MUJI / Retail company & ANA / Airline company
Tokyo-based ad agency Party created a contest called Muji To Go, and the ten winners would get 3-D printed models of themselves. The tagline they used was, “A MUJI journey, to discover ‘family'”. One winner was selected to take a trip with family members to a destination of choice, where they met up with their miniature selves.
Cons: A bit anti-climatic for the family that traveled halfway around the world.
Pros: Back in July 2013, the use of 3-D printing technology was still very new so the promotional product of those figurines was exciting and fresh. Plus, no one can turn down a free vacation.
Less talk, more 3-D printing
This technology can be an innovative and creative way for companies to engage with consumers. It is reminiscent of old school ad craft, like paper cut-outs, and it leaves consumers and clients with a physical, personalized item. In the end, advertising agencies should use 3-D printing because it is cheaper, customizable, and exciting. In the future, there are many ways people can apply this technology to advertising as well as in other fields.
More impressive 3-D prints: