Print your product (yes really, your actual product and not just a picture of it)

By Reach Brands

Imagine if you could prototype a product the same day you thought of it. And not just quickly and cheaply – but also easily, right there in your own building… just like printing a document. Well, very soon this might be possible.

Advances in rapid prototyping will effectively enable us to ‘print’ food locally using 3D printers. So instead of inks in the cartridges, there will be ingredients. And instead of offering to sort and bind our documents, the printer will produce the finished unpackaged food item.

This will mean that you can ‘send to print’ a product like a biscuit or a cereal bar – and produce the product there and then. Imagine this technology to be like the next generation of Soda Streams or bread makers. Except, it will be able to produce lots of different products, as long as you’ve got the right software and cartridges or ‘ingredients’.

You will be able to adjust the prototype to adjust taste, colour, texture and nutritional balance. So imagine coming up with an NPD idea for a light/diet version of your product. You could program the software to produce a low calorie version and voila! – it’s available for consumers to test on the spot. So, for example, you could quickly test low-cal verses low-fat to see which has more taste appeal – and then check which of your flavour variants carries the new version best. This innovation will help streamline your NPD and bring the consumer closer into the innovation process.

It could also allow for more relevant and topical innovations to be launched quickly and easily. A limited edition ‘London Olympics healthy cereal bar’ or a ‘variant of the month/season’ could help to keep your brand alive, energised and relevant – without breaking the bank.

If all this seems extreme and unlikely to you, think on… human tissue is already being produced using such machines. Plus, manufacturers of 3D printers are already expecting to launch an accessible home-kitchen appliance version of the product, that will be ‘as acceptable as a microwave’ for about £300, in around 3 years’. Mind blowing.

Long-term 3D printing could spell the death of packaged goods, but that’s a topic for another issue of The Insight Wire…

By Jess Warren, Strategist at Reach
Contact Jess