Concept Laser – Additive Manufacturing in the Consumer Goods Sector

By Daniel Hund | Concept Laser

  • 3D toothbrush made from metal
  • Patented toothbrush design from Italy
  • A breath of fresh air: High-end toothbrushes from Zare
  • Cultivating a brand: Redefining a common utensil

Lichtenfels (Germany), September 22, 2017: It’s common knowledge that Italian design is world-renowned. That Italian designers reinterpret virtually every object is no secret. Many of us are familiar with names like Alessi, Pininfarina or Colani. We think of cars with elegant lines, fine furniture and iconic household objects. Now, Zare from Boretto, Italy, has ventured to design a new toothbrush in collaboration with Nussbaumer Design, headed by Christoph Nussbaumer. The result is very unusual – this toothbrush is made from metal. Under the brand name MIO, this 3D-printed toothbrush featuring a timeless design is produced by means of additive manufacturing.

One of the technical strengths of 3D metal printing lies in its ability to redefine the function and geometry of products. So it’s hardly surprising that a 3D toothbrush made from metal has a different effect than a common toothbrush. And this holds true even though injection-molded toothbrushes made of plastic have been design objects or years now. When we buy a new toothbrush, today we can find ergonomic designs that combine customization and functionality, with colors and shapes that are intended to captivate us. Zare’s 3D metal toothbrush goes one step further.

Zare headquarters in Boretto, Italy (Photo courtesy of Zare)

Zare headquarters in Boretto, Italy (Photo courtesy of Zare)

The story behind it all: Zare’s expansion into 3D technology
Andrea Pasquali, co-owner of Zare: “During the financial crisis of 2008 to 2010, as a service provider in prototyping and small batch production we looked for new business fields and production options. This is how we came across additive manufacturing and all the opportunities it brings along with it. We quickly saw what strengths this production technology could provide our customers in the aerospace industry, medical and dental technology, motor sport and the packaging industry over conventional processes. The advantages were clear – AM saves time and money. Products were available faster, without tools or up-front costs. It offers never before seen possibilities for designing components with custom functions and geometries. We refused to accept the general assertion that AM is too expensive – especially since it all depends on identifying the right parts for additive manufacturing.

Andrea Pasquali, co-owner of Zare: “For us at Zare, additive manufacturing means one thing: We can remodel every product with a more creative design.” (Photo courtesy of Zare)

Andrea Pasquali, co-owner of Zare: “For us at Zare, additive manufacturing means one thing: We can remodel every product with a more creative design.” (Photo courtesy of Zare)

In 2009, we purchased our first 3D plastic printer.” Increasing demand for metal products showed Zare just how important 3D metal printing was becoming. They completed their first metal projects with a service provider. However, they quickly encountered obstacles, particularly in surface quality. In 2013, Zare procured its first 3D metal printer – an M2 cusing from Concept Laser. “For us, this was a logical step in entering the 3D world with metals. It enabled us to handle requests and orders independently, quickly and, above all, constructively. Today, our ratio of plastic to metal products is 40 to 60,” explains Andrea Pasquali. Thanks to the company’s experience with conventional machining techniques and plastic prototyping, Zare quickly realized the advantages of 3D metal printing, introducing its customers to the new possibilities.

Zare’s 3D factory with machines from Concept Laser (Photo courtesy of Zare)

Zare’s 3D factory with machines from Concept Laser (Photo courtesy of Zare)

Zare breaks the mold
Though Zare was already successful in 3D metal printing, the company never really had the idea to create a designer toothpaste made from metal. This was still the case in 2015 as Andrea Pasquali approached designer Christoph Nussbaumer, known to him from other projects, to work together in laying the foundation for another profit driver.

Inspired by their joint love for flexible geometries, something AM technology entails, the two came up with a wide variety of ideas. The objective was to take a normal object of daily use and create a luxury item not yet available that could only be created using additive manufacturing based on its design. In the end, they went with their gut, choosing a “customizable” toothbrush made from metal.

The production costs didn’t play a decisive role, the focus instead placed on a unique design, exclusivity and user friendliness, in this case ergonomics. At Zare, a company originally from the prototyping sector, these dependencies were ground for a new approach. Why not produce 3D printed toothbrushes made from stainless steel or titanium? Both materials are standard in the dental industry and certified for oral use.

Design variant 1 of the MIO toothbrush (Photo courtesy of Zare)

Design variant 1 of the MIO toothbrush (Photo courtesy of Zare)

Stainless steel 316L is common in dental technology. Titanium is biocompatible and particularly attractive for those with allergies to other materials. And both materials exude the sought value and exclusivity. The logical deduction: both materials are perfect for producing the envisioned design. Experience also promised that an M2 cusing Multilaser from Concept Laser would achieve an excellent surface quality. Particularly in the oral cavity, a very sensitive area, end products must have a perfect surface quality. This is why the toothbrushes are finished manually to ensure perfect results and maximum user comfort.

Designer Christoph Nussbaumer on the initial project phase
After earning a degree in design in Italy, Austrian designer Christoph Nussbaumer began working for international design agencies in Salzburg (A), Milan (I) and Boston (USA). As the head of a very successful design agency established by Nussbaumer himself in Novellara, Italy, with a team consisting of designers and engineers, Nussbaumer has received over 100 design and industry awards. His strengths include applied ergonomics, biomechanics in sports and branding. Christoph Nussbaumer on the origin of the 3D-printed toothbrush: “I still remember when Andrea Pasquali and I met in my office the first time regarding a new project. We reflected on a product that could highlight the extreme, formal design freedom afforded by additive manufacturing. We assessed possible products, such as bicycles, lamps and jewelry. We contemplated jewelry, a skilled art in every phase, from conception, to production to finishing. On the other hand, we knew that we wanted to create a product that served a function. A product used every day, like a toothbrush. Useful, exclusive and not too extravagant – after all, a toothbrush is not your typical status symbol. Ultimately, we transformed a common object into a valuable, personalized jewel that accompanies its owner every day, but still remains timeless.”

Individuality combined with a strong brand name
After around half a year, the team decided on two design variants, each available in both right-handed and left-handed versions as well as in two different materials (stainless steel 316L and titanium). Both design versions are patented. Each toothbrush has a serial number and can be customized. However each version can even be ordered with a matte, polished or galvanized surface finish or in original MioRaw® for those who want an object with less alterations and as close as possible to the additive matter.

Design variant 2 of the MIO toothbrush (Photo courtesy of Zare)

Design variant 2 of the MIO toothbrush (Photo courtesy of Zare)

With its ergonomic design and changeable brush head made from silver, the 3D printed toothbrush is extremely durable, customizable and marks a new level of value in terms of its look and feel. This is emphasized by the premium packaging the entire set is supplied in, which is also produced using 3D plastic printing. But this new product from the consumer goods segment also requires a new marketing strategy with its own brand name to break the association of a producer and marketer with the established profile of a service provider. The idea for the brand was the name “MIO”, meaning “my” in English. Not an unusual choice for a customizable luxury product. The product has been announced at www.mioitaly.com and sales are set to begin on September 1. If the market launch is successful, Zare will consider expanding the “MIO” brand to include additional additive produced luxury products in the future. In any case, Zare’s “gut decision” has shown one thing for sure: 3D metal printing is about transforming creative design and geometry into new products and functions.

MIO luxury toothbrush set made from metal with exclusive packaging (Photo courtesy of Zare)

MIO luxury toothbrush set made from metal with exclusive packaging (Photo courtesy of Zare)

Concept Laser at Zare
As Zare entered the 3D metal printing market in 2013, they wanted to avoid any negative experiences with service providers regarding quality and product surfaces. Zare found just the system manufacturer it was looking for in Concept Laser’s Italian sales partner Ridix. The positive experiences made with the initial investment into a Concept Laser M2 in 2013 lead to them purchasing an Mlab cusing R. This was soon followed by three additional M2 cusing Multilaser units and finally one X LINE 2000R unit to be able to offer very large components.

Right from the start, the M2 cusing worked wonders for Zare. The excellent handling properties thanks to the Concept Laser-typical separation of the process stage and handling stage received great praise, above all the safety aspects, with reactive titanium being used.  Andrea Pasquali: “For us, the change of materials was a surprise. On other machines, material changes took a very long time and were complicated, even though they weren’t uncommon for us. If we wanted to be flexible in production, Concept Laser machines were our only choice for efficient changes of material. The LaserCUSING machines are much easier to use and offer us greater flexibility and reliability than other machines we are aware of.” But Concept Laser also impressed Zare in other areas of process technology, such as surface quality. The original service providers regularly delivered suboptimal results. This situation was already much improved on the first M2 cusing from Concept Laser.

The larges LaserCUSING production facility at Zare: X LINE 2000R (Photo courtesy of Zare)

The larges LaserCUSING production facility at Zare: X LINE 2000R (Photo courtesy of Zare)

Enhancements to the already excellent surface quality were achieved by switching to 3D. Increased flexibility thanks to the variable laser spot setting also proved to be highly advantageous. The newest three Multilaser machines from Concept Laser have increased productivity significantly. Andrea Pasquali: “The M2 cusing Multilaser brings our set-up speeds to a whole new level. Depending on the component geometry and material, we have seen an increase in productivity by 30-40%.”

Verdict
With the “MIO” brand, product service provider Zare is evolving into a manufacturer with its own branding and brand concept, giving the company a second profit driver. In any case, Zare’s gut decision to produce the “pro MIO” has shown one thing for sure: 3D metal printing is about transforming creative design and geometry into new products and functions with flexible production. Andrea Pasquali: “For us at Zare, additive manufacturing means one thing: We can remodel every product with a more creative design.”

The 3D-printed toothbrush under the brand name “MIO”

  • Luxury toothbrush in two design variants made from metal with in changeable brush head
  • Customizable surface finishing (polished, matte or galvanized)
  • Durability, premium value, timeless look and feel
  • Ergonomic design, left- and right-handed
  • Optionally in stainless steel 316L or titanium
  • Luxurious, 3D printed packaging
  • Significant reduction in development times and costs
  • Just-in-time production (JIT)
  • No tools to buy and less waste

About Zare
Hailing from Boretto, Italy, Zare has over 50 years of experience and know-how in the area of fine mechanics and process innovation. In 2009, they dove into rapid prototyping to expand their conventional manufacturing expertise. As a result, laser melting of metals and monolithic prototyping were introduced across the board to serve demanding industries. Zare was certified to UNI EN 9100 in 2009 to be able to serve the demanding aerospace industry.

In 2011, the company began finishing prototypes and surfaces as well as producing dental and medical models.

The year 2013 was an important milestone for Zare, as the company invested in industrialized additive manufacturing. Instead of buying these services, the company transformed into a full service provider, offering both the design and production of 3D components.

They set up an additive manufacturing factory, now featuring 18 certified 3D industrial printers. In 2016, Zare’s Additive Team produced around 80% of all components manufactured by Zare.

Concept Laser GmbH
An der Zeil 8
D-96215 Lichtenfels
Germany
Phone  +49 (0) 9571 / 1679-0
Internet: www.concept-laser.de

Zare Prototipi
Via IV Novembre, 37/A
I-42022 Boretto (RE)
Italy
Phone:+39.0522 96 42 20
E-mail: info@zare.it

Representative of Concept Laser in Italy:
Ridix S.p.A.
Via Indipendenza, 9/F
I-10095 Grusglaiasco (TO)
Italy

Contact: Alexandro Zito
Tel.: +39,011.4027511
E-Mail: azito@ridix.it

About Concept Laser
Concept Laser GmbH, which was founded in 2000 by Frank Herzog, is one of the world’s leading providers of machine and plant technology for the 3D printing of metal components. Since December 2016, Concept Laser has been part of GE Additive, a division of the world’s leading digital industrial enterprise General Electric (GE). GE Additive was founded in 2016 and acquired 75% of the company shares of Concept Laser, among others.

The technology driver is the patented LaserCUSING® process from Concept Laser. The powder-bed-based laser fusing of metals – opens up new freedoms when it comes to configuring components and also permits the tool-free, economic fabrication of highly complex components in fairly small batch sizes. The company’s customers come from many different sectors of industry, for example medical and dental technology, the aerospace industry, toolmaking and mold construction, the automotive industry and the watch and jewelry industry. Concept Laser’s 3D metal printers process among other materials powder materials of stainless steel and hot-work steels, aluminum and titanium alloys and – for jewelry making – precious metals.

In addition to first-class additive production plants, also from Concept Laser, GE Additive offers materials and extensive development consulting for various industries. GE Additive is dedicated to the further development and transformation of the industrial sector with software-defined plants as well as networked, adaptable and forward-looking solutions.

LaserCUSING® background information – Key word: LaserCUSING®
The patented LaserCUSING® process from Concept Laser is used to create high-precision mechanically and thermally resilient metallic components. The term “LaserCUSING®,” coined from the C in Concept Laser and the word FUSING, describes the technology: The fusing process generates components layer-by-layer using 3D-CAD data.

In this process, fine metal powder is fused locally by a high-energy fiber laser. The material solidifies after cooling. The contour of the component is created by redirecting the laser beam using a mirror redirection unit (scanner). The component is built up layer by layer (with a layer thickness of 15 – 500 μm) by lowering the bottom of the build chamber, applying more powder and then fusing again.

What makes systems from Concept Laser unique is stochastic navigation of the slice segments (also referred to as “islands”) which are processed successively. This patented process ensures a significant reduction in stress when manufacturing very large components.

Prizes and Awards 

  • 2001 Presented with the EuroMold Silver AWARD for the M3 linear LaserCUSING® machine
  • 2008 Presented with the Bavarian Innovation Prize for the M2 cusing LaserCUSING® machine
  • 2012 Presented with the EuroMold Bronze AWARD for the X line 1000R LaserCUSING® machine
  • 2014 BAVARIA’S BEST 50 prize-winner
  • 2014 Finalist in the “Large Companies” category for the German Industry Innovation Prize in the shape of Frank Herzog, Managing Director of Concept Laser GmbH – Project: “The first 3D-printed titanium component on board the A350 XWB”
  • 2015 The “Best CEO of the Year Additive Manufacturing” award was presented to Frank Herzog, President & CEO of Concept Laser GmbH by the European CEO Magazine
  • 2015 Nominated for the German Future Prize – Prize awarded by the German President for technology and innovation; Project: “3D printing in commercial aircraft engineering – a manufacturing revolution is taking off” in the shape of Frank Herzog, Managing Director of Concept Laser GmbH
  • 2015 FOCUS Growth Champion
  • 2016 Winner of the “International Additive Manufacturing Award” with the QM Meltpool 3D quality monitoring tool, which was developed in-house
  • 2016 The ”Technologie Award by the Ostbayerischen Technologie-Transfer-Instituts e.V.“ was presented to Frank Herzog, President & CEO of Concept Laser GmbH, for his entrepreneurial technology and innovation services
  • 2016 Winner “Materialica Design+Technology Award 2016“ for the ”NextGen Spaceframe” project, together with its project partners
  • 2016 The “Best Pioneer in the Manufacturing and 3D Printing Industry 2016” award was presented to Frank Herzog, President & CEO of Concept Laser GmbH, by the European Business Magazine
  • 2016 FOCUS Growth Champion
  • 2016 Winner “Bavarian Innovation Award 2016“ with the QM Meltpool 3D quality monitoring tool, which was developed in-house
  • 2016 The “Best CEO of the Year Additive Manufacturing” award was presented to Frank Herzog, President & CEO of Concept Laser GmbH, by the European CEO Magazine
  • 2017 iF DESIGN AWARD 2017 for the user interface design of the software CL WRX 3.0 from Concept Laser

Source: Concept Laser

 

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