A custom-made solution: you have an idea, we realise it
Shower gel dispenser
Agecom is a Belgian company dealing with guest amenities and specialised in the development of hotel accessories. Founder and Managing Director, Mr. Philippe Debnicki, in 2005, designed a clever dispensing system for shower gel, in the form of a handy device that would be fixed into hotel showers.
Before launching the product to the market, Sales Manager Mr. Eric Doneux wanted to check the first reactions in the tourist sector. In order to be able to present his ideas to different hotel chains, Product Manager David Beublet needed a tangible preview of his design. This brought him to rapid prototyping technology, more particularly to Materialise.
Materialise — the solution provider
Being a layman in the prototyping field, Mr. Debnicki was totally dependent on the expert knowledge of the Materialise personnel, regarding file preparation, technology selection, material choice and final finish.
Files: from useless to usable
Initially, Agecom delivered us a file which turned out to be impossible to use for rapid prototyping purposes. Luckily, Materialise has a team of skilled people experienced in fixing all kinds of files and prepare them for RP use.
The first step for our CAD team was to adapt this file, in consultation with the customer, and make it ready-to-use. We have processed the file, using our own Magics software, in such a way that we discovered some inconsistencies in the product design itself.
"I had no experience at all with preparing files for 3D printing. Materialise helped me all the way. What a relief! In fact, they took care of all the file adaptations while I could already concentrate on the next steps of my project. Moreover, Materialise made some valuable suggestions to improve the dispenser's design."
Technologies: based upon customer's requirements
When it is the first time you make use of RP technologies, most of the jargon is probably double Dutch. The Materialise team is aware of that.
It is not the customer's task to decide on the technology they would like to order. No, it is our duty to offer a custom-made solution. Together with the customer we analyse the applications for which their prototype will be used; different applications require different production methods.
In this particular case, Mr. Debnicki had some clear requirements:
"I needed a model to show off at hotel sites. For me, the most important criteria were: functionality and 'looks'. The prototype had to look exactly the same as the end product, i.e. referential materials, colours, and design. Different sizes of bottles had to fit in the dispenser."
Practically the whole Materialise technology range integrated in one single project
Thanks to Materialise's wide range of technologies and materials all we have to do is go through our in-house capabilities and pick out the appropriate solution for the customer. Our skills and experience leads us towards the right approach.
For this dispenser, we decided to combine four of our technologies, each having its particular strength, to achieve the best final result. The Materialise team made a list of the customer's requirements and linked them to the appropriate technology and material.
Housing with inscription
Mr. Beublet wanted their company name to be inscribed in the surface of the housing. When you want a certain inscription inserted in your prototype as if it was the real end product, we can perfectly copy this by using stereolithography .
The lower part of the dispenser needed to be transparent so that the liquid passing through the device would be visible. Taking into account the small dimensions of the part, the fastest way to build it was undoubtedly by using stereolithography. Our stereolithography material range contains a certain material — Tusk2700 — which we can finish in a transparent way. The result is stunning!
Flexible components with metal functionality
Inside the end product, a flexible spring makes sure that the fluid is dispensed from the bottle through a cap. Mr. Doneux wanted to demonstrate clearly to his potential buyers how the dispensing system worked. Therefore, he needed a completely functional prototype. We had the challenge to find the best way to build a flexible but strong component.
We needed a material that could simulate the flexibility of metal springs so using selective laser sintering with polyamide material was an obvious choice for us. The eventual Laser Sintered component performed very well in the functional tests afterwards.
Complicated functional components
The Nivea dispenser contains another internal component that assures the bottle top is fixed in the holder. The Materialise team puzzled out an ingenious solution to achieve the desired effect. First, they cut the thread of a real bottle cap and glued this one inside a stereolithography component. This sterolithography part was then used as a master to make a silicone mould and cast the eventual part (this process is called vacuum casting). The HMPU3 material was chosen because of its strength and its resemblance to real ABS.
Rubber sealing components
To seal the dispenser there is a sealing component between the dispense tube and the blue cap. Seals are typically made of rubber, a material that is not an obviousness to prototype. Before, it was impossible to obtain a rubber-like component through 3D printing techniques. Last year, Flex resin brought a radical change. This material allowed us to build rubber-like parts using stereolithography machines. A huge save of time and money! Thanks to this revolutionary Flex material, we were also able to "print" the sealing component of this dispenser.
Mr. Beublet eventually ordered two copies of the product, both delivered within two weeks. This is a remarkably fast lead-time, taking into account the complexity of the parts and the high-quality finish.
"The final result was amazing! I would have taken it for a production part, the ideal tool to introduce our new concept in the hotel sector. Thanks to Materialise's professionalism and custom-made solutions I was able to optimise my design and to shorten the product development cycle."
We would like to thank the company Agecom for the interesting cooperation during the whole project and their contribution to this article.
BACK 1 - FDM - ABS - grey high gloss finish
2 - inserts
3 - Arm in FDM - ABS Strong & functional
1 - Inside: flexible Laser Sintered clip
2 - Stereolithography - grey high gloss finish, with "AGECOM" inscription
3 - Stereolithography - blue high gloss finish
4 - Stereolithography - transparent finish
5 - Stereolithography - Flex65 (rubberlike material for sealing)
6 - Inside: Vacuum Casting cap with thread - HMPU3