To use a Thermos product is to touch it. Because Thermos customers handle their products extensively — with their hands and their mouths — impressive look, feel and ergonomics are vital. Innovating these products requires numerous physical design iterations, and Matsuyama’s team must be able to create prototypes quickly and easily. That’s why Thermos K.K.’s state-of-the-art research and development facility In Niigata, Japan, includes two Stratasys® 3D Printing technologies. Matsuyama’s team brought Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Technology inhouse in 2006, when designers moved to an advanced engineering platform using high-end 3D CAD.
The team chose a Dimension 3D printer for its ability to make relatively large models with strong thermoplastics. “It also offers excellent cost performance,” says Matsuyama. Since adopting 3D printing, Matsuyama’s team builds prototypes faster and at a reduced cost. Previously, outsourcing a typical prototype took three to five days. “But now we can do it internally, and finish a prototype in hours. If it’s a small part, the job is done in minutes,” Matsuyama says.
And for Thermos, building a prototype in-house costs just one-fifth the price of outsourcing. “With 3D printing, we mostly pay for materials and nothing else,” he says. Beyond improving speed and cost, 3D printing helps Thermos make better products. “We can make as many prototypes as we need until we achieve our design goals. It allowed us to optimize the fit of the cap stopper and pouring performance of the best-selling Thermos mugs,” says R&D engineer Takahiro Maruyama.