Packaging vendor uses 3D printing as an engine for growth

AllenField, which prints parts for packaging using two 3D printers and aims to do more by 2015, shares its experience and advice.

 

My report on 3D printing seen and heard at the TexasPack event in early May centered on notes from presentations and informal observations in walking the exhibition aisles. The latter included covertly alluding to a particular packaging vendor that I had visited as follows: “in one packaging supplier’s booth, I was surprised to learn that a number of the samples on display were created using the company’s 3D printer. Appropriately enough, they were made of polylactic acid, or PLA, a common polymer used in packaging targeted toward sustainable packaging solutions. I will aim to present further details on that vendor’s experience in a future article.”

 

I can follow through on that commitment now that packaging component provider AllenField (allenfield.com), Brightwaters, NY, has agreed to provide a few comments about its use of 3D printing. The company uses 3D desktop printers from MakerBot (shown; the website is makerbot.com). AllenField’s packaging products include plastic handles, connecting clips for corrugated boxes, Point-of-Purchase (POP) display aids and more. Here’s my Q&A with AllenField business development manager Rob Ahearn:

 

What’s your company’s experience in using 3D printing?

Ahearn: We had always sent our 3D files out to be produced by a third party. About two years ago, we purchased our first machine. It gave us so much freedom to experiment with ideas. Since then, we have purchased a second machine. It has become an engine for growth.

 

Why was this particular 3D printer selected?

Ahearn: We needed something that was affordable, durable and easy to learn and maintain. It also had to be able to meet our requirement for part size.

 

What benefits have you seen using the technology?

Ahearn: Quick turnaround on concepts to customers and an ability to “test” the part before going into production. Because of the material used, we can’t use it on about 10 percent of the work. And some larger parts need to be produced in sections.

 

What’s been your best experience so far?

Ahearn: We discussed a concept with a client on a Monday and had a part on his desk on Thursday. Wow factor was a 10.  

 

What’s been the most challenging?

Ahearn: Living hinges are the most challenging.

 

What’s next?

Ahearn: We expect to add two more machines by 2015.  The printers will help us develop proprietary and custom parts that provide solutions to the packaging industry.

 

What advice do you have?

Ahearn: Understand that there is a learning curve, use tech support as needed. Don’t forget about the upfront engineering that a part might need before it is printed.

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