3D printing’s future in packaging is promising

Rick Lingle in Digital Printing on July 20, 2015

An exclusive survey provides an overview to the market status, forecast, advice and points to several unusual projects in the packaging market.


Exclusive survey results for packaging’s role in 3D printing indicates that while current activity in 3D printing for packaging is limited, that will change due to increased investment in the technology as a near-term tipping point that will bring many more companies into using 3D printing for packaging.

That’s according to the final results of Packaging Digest’s informal 3D printing poll answered by dozens of industry professionals. We asked for their input whether or not they used the technology because we wanted to know the reasoning for those who don’t.

We’ll start with the reasoning for those who use the technology, which was exactly one-third (33.3%) of our poll takers, according to the poll. What do they use it for? In a question that allowed multiple responses, all  (100%) reported that they use 3D printing for prototyping. Also, 25% said they use it for packaging machinery parts and another 25% said they use it for “other” purposes. We’ve bundled some of those along with justification the poll-takers indicated for why they use 3D printing:

It is very valuable—an item in someone's hands that I am designing is better than a picture.

It provides rapid, iterative design free from current machine constraints.

It can speed up prototype lead-time, it can help avoid costly dies that may have to be created even just for a prototype initially. It also gets one to a high level of accuracy.

Speed and initial low cost to generate complex designs for consumer feasibility.

It provides fast, accurate prototypes that provide good feedback for all internal customers when developing new packaging or modifying the current packaging.

It offers rapid prototypes without tooling costs.

We use it for rapid tooling development for deep embossing and debossing applications.

It’s another important tool in the toolbox. Rather than use a CNC, milling machine or lathe, a 3D printer gives you another way to output a concept or idea to support the packaging innovation process.

It’s an excellent way to provide unique solutions to customers.

It is very useful for mockup preparation.

We use it for components and machinery parts.

Enables us to quickly innovate and respond to our customers.

The high value to see the advantages and disadvantages in the printed design

We don't do it internally, we leverage our suppliers and their outsource partners, mostly for prototyping packaging components.

There are too many advantages to list.


We found that exactly one-third (33.3%) who use the technology do the 3D printing in-house; more than one-fourth (26.7%) outsource the technology and 40.0% use a combination of self and contracted projects.


Next we explored the reasoning for nonusers and peered ahead at 3D printing's near-term future in packaging…  

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