PepsiCo: Innovation in packaging design with 3D printing

In order to stand out from the crowd in today's advertising, companies are looking for new creative opportunities. Learn how PepsiCo and Marvel Studios use the 3D printing technology to create innovative packaging designs for a successful advertising campaign.

Attracting attention with creative designs

With the premiere of the movie "Black Panther" in mind, PepsiCo and Marvel Studios have teamed up to develop a media kit that will cause a sensation in the crowded social media room. A funny graphic or a well-placed meme is no longer enough, and there is a need for new creative designs.

The planned media kit contains five cans that represent the main characters of the film, a Samsung tablet, comic books, photos from behind the scenes, a light box with "HiLight smart LEDs" and a 3D-printed Black Panther mask that fits on the corresponding can.

A number of new technologies and manufacturing processes were considered for the production of the Black Panther mask. PepsiCo's R&D packaging engineers turned to Protolabs.


Low Volumes of Highly Complex Parts

The primary challenge Phinney and his team faced while developing the replica Black Panther mask was determining how to best manufacture the part. The team of designers and engineers sought a manufacturing solution that could produce a highly complex geometry while being economical at low volumes, since they would only need to manufacture 250 parts in total. The combination of these two factors quickly led them to 3D printing.

“Given the detailed features on the mask and the relatively low volumes of parts, we knew early on that 3D printing was going to be the most suitable manufacturing process for this project,” Phinney explained. “The volumes were not high enough to justify investing in an injection moulding tool and we liked the design freedom that 3D printing provides.”

Every detail was critical as they developed the elements included in the kit—they wanted to be sure the kit looked perfect when it was opened up. In-house fused deposition modelling (FDM) machines were used for early-stage prototypes to alter the original mask design so that it aligned with the artwork on the can and remained secure on the can during shipping. Once these small modifications were made, they began assessing various 3D printing technologies to be used for higher quality prototypes and eventually production.

Phinney noted that while researching suitable production-grade 3D printing processes, they considered five technologies in total, which included: selective laser sintering (SLS), stereolithography (SLA), PolyJet, continuous liquid interface production (CLIP), and Multi Jet Fusion (MJF). Ultimately, he and his team decided to build parts with SLS, CLIP, and MJF to better understand each processes’ capabilities and determine what would be best for the project.

Adapting the design of the plastic test fixtures for insert moulding required only minor tweaks, Murray said. He based the changes on feedback from Protolabs’ design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis and a conversation with a Protolabs engineer.


Multi Jet Fusion Meets the Mark

After evaluating the physical prototypes produced by three 3D printing technologies, the team chose to move forward with MJF due to its low cost, surface finish quality, and resolution, which precisely replicated the fine features in the mask design.

“When we received the Multi Jet Fusion part it was clear that this technology was going to meet the cosmetic requirements we outlined at the beginning of the design process,” said Phinney. “Not only did the part look great, but it was also the most affordable process among the final three technologies we considered.”

He went on to explain that durability was another factor that led them to choose MJF. “Since the can was meant to be a collector’s item, we wanted a part that could last 10 to 20 years. While other processes like SLA and PolyJet have high resolution, there was no guarantee that they would hold the deep black colour and be able to last for several years,” he noted.

With final parts in hand, the promotional kit was assembled and put through the company’s distribution testing to ensure it could withstand the rigors of shipping. After a series of vibration and compression tests as well as drops, they found the mask remained secured on the can and were assured the kit would arrive in its intended configuration.


Innovative Promotional Kit Generates Social Media Buzz

As the “Black Panther” premiere drew near, PepsiCo put the finishing touches on the promotional kit and sent it out to hundreds of online influencers and others involved with the creation of the movie. The campaign resulted in numerous posts on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube and received more than 10 million social media impressions.

Phinney said the full kit was conceptualised, engineered, and produced in less than six months to align with the movie release and holistic marketing campaign. Protolabs’ quick turnaround times enabled them to meet their ambitious deadlines.

“We needed a supplier that could meet our deadlines and Protolabs provided us with quality 3D-printed parts on time throughout the project” said Phinney. “The success of the Black Panther mask not only demonstrates Protolabs’ capabilities but the potential of 3D printing to advance packaging design.”

Further info
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Contract manufacturing additive manufacturing
    Rapid prototyping

Architecture and advertising

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Jenny Schön

Proto Labs Germay GmbH

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