IN the past three years, 3D printing has expanded from prototyping to factory tooling to short run production, with the expectation that it would be used also for mass customisation of consumer products. Based in Ikeda, Osaka, Japan, Daihatsu has partnered with 3D printing solutions company Stratasys, Kota Nezu from industrial design company Znug Design and 3D creator Sun Junjie to turn the vision into reality. The designers 3D print with ASA thermoplastic, which is very durable, UV resistant and aesthetic, to create 15 “Effect Skins” - intricate geometric and organic patterns in 10 different colours. Customers can adjust the parameters of the designs themselves, exponentially increasing the numbers of options and allowing “one-off” customisation for each consumer.The skins may be ordered for front and rear bumpers and fenders.“What would have taken two to three months to develop can now be produced in two weeks,” says Osamu Fujishita, general manager, Corporate Planning Department, Brand DNA Office, Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd.The traditional manufacturing method of reducing costs is mass production of identical parts to take advantage of economies of scale. But this Effect Skins project illustrates the power of 3D printing when it comes to creating on-demand product parts with high customisability and rich design properties.“This project would not have been possible with traditional manufacturing or tooling methods,” explains Kota Nezu, Znug Design.“We believe on-demand production [with 3D printing] offers definite benefits to supply chain efficiencies,” adds Osamu Fujishita. “And it allows easy access for customers.”The Effect Skin project is being tested in 2016 in select markets with plans for commercialisation in 2017. - Reporter.