In June 2018, Chanel became one of the first major cosmetics companies to use additive manufacturing on a mass scale when they launched the long-awaited Le Volume Révolution de Chanel mascara featuring a 3D-printed mascara wand. The patented brush features a unique honeycomb structure and microcavities, allowing the brush to “deliver the optimal amount of mascara in one stroke” . But there is more value behind the technology than what initially meets the eye(lash); 3D printing eliminates the traditional manufacturing need for expensive plastic injection molds, thereby reducing manufacturing costs and increasing speed to market .
Why is this megatrend important to product development?
Additive manufacturing is important to Chanel’s product development because it can improve both manufacturing efficiency and product design capabilities. There has been a shift in the cosmetics market in recent years that puts Chanel at a disadvantage; the growing power of beauty influencers on social media has allowed new, digitally-native, “indie” cosmetics brands to scale quickly online with minimal marketing spend. These small, agile brands have disrupted the beauty landscape and large brands are now struggling to keep pace with the rapidly changing market [3, 4]. Increased speed to market with innovation is becoming critical in order to remain competitive. Additive manufacturing could provide a significant design advantage because it allows for rapid prototyping without the costly and time-consuming process of creating injection molds. Chanel fine-tuned the design of the Volume Revolution mascara wand by creating over 100 prototypes with 3D printing, and says the unique shape of the wand would not have been possible with conventional manufacturing methods . Examples of prototypes are shown below.
What is Chanel doing to address this issue in the short and medium term?
Chanel patented the 3D printed mascara wand in 2007, but the product did not launch until 2018 after partnering with French 3D-design firm Erpro Group, who worked on the project for 2 years and built a new facility specifically designed to produce the brushes. The factory houses six machines which are capable of producing 50,000 brushes per day, up to a target of 1 million per month . It is still early days for the newly launched mascara, so it is hard to tell what the notoriously private Chanel is planning for 3D printing in the future; however, I believe that the significant investment they made in this technology is indicative of their commitment to further explore the potential of additive manufacturing in the short and medium term.
What other steps should Chanel take in short and medium term?
Mascara is just the first step for Chanel. As a next step, I recommend that they expand outside of the eye category and consider applying additive manufacturing technology to the face category. Face is the largest segment of the color cosmetics market—accounting for 47% of sales vs 38% for eye—and is growing at a faster rate than the eye segment . Being quick to market with new face products would provide a competitive advantage for Chanel, which is sorely needed as they have recently expanded into growing distribution channels like Ulta and are now competing against both prestige and mass brands .
Additive manufacturing clearly provides significant benefits to both the design and manufacturing processes for Chanel, but I believe they should also consider using the technology to create more sustainable packaging. The beauty and personal care industry is facing mounting pressure from consumers to clean up its packaging in order to reduce ocean pollution. Large companies like P&G are starting to take strong stances on sustainability and corporate social responsibility, “Procter & Gamble’s Ambition 2030 campaign outlines plans to use primarily eco-friendly and recyclable packaging innovations for its 20 leadership brands…the scale is huge for the global players, but smaller indie brands are showing how it’s done.” 
Some beauty companies like Lush are beginning to use 3D printing as a means of product customization , but there has yet to be proven success with it. How can a large-scale cosmetics company maximize the use of 3D printing – is the primary value in manufacturing or is customization also worth pursuing?
It took Chanel 11 years to launch this product after filing one of their first patents in 2007. Would further developments take years to implement, or do they now have enough experience with additive manufacturing to expand quickly?
- CHANEL. (2018). LE VOLUME RÉVOLUTION DE CHANEL Extreme Volume Mascara 3D-Printed Brush 10 – NOIR | CHANEL. [online] Available at: https://www.chanel.com/us/makeup/p/191710/le-volume-revolution-de-chanel-extreme-volume-mascara-3d-printed-brush/ [Accessed 10 Nov. 2018].
- Weil, J. (2018). Shifting Priorities for Beauty Product Packaging. [online] WWD. Available at: https://wwd.com/beauty-industry-news/beauty-features/shifting-priorities-for-beauty-product-packaging-1202889191/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018].
- Truglia, S. (2018). Young and in Love … With Lipstick and Eyeliner. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/22/business/millennials-cosmetics-boom.html [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
- Mintel (2018). Colour Cosmetics – UK – May 2018. [online] Available at: http://academic.mintel.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/display/859083/ [Accessed 14 Nov. 2018].
- Lai, E. (2018). Chanel announces plan to mass-produce a 3D printed mascara brush – 3D Printing Industry. [online] 3D Printing Industry. Available at: https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/chanel-announces-plan-mass-produce-3d-printed-mascara-brush-130715/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018].
- Mintel (2018). Color Cosmetics – US – July 2018. [online] Available at: http://academic.mintel.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/display/860553/ [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
- Thomas, E. (2018). How Ulta Is Resetting the Mass Beauty Shopping Experience. [online] WWD. Available at: https://wwd.com/beauty-industry-news/beauty-features/ulta-mass-beauty-shopping-experience-1202636925/ [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].
- Stylus (2018). The Great Beauty Green-Up.
- Jackson, B. (2018). 3D printing part of £13 million innovation push at Lush cosmetics – 3D Printing Industry. [online] 3D Printing Industry. Available at: https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/3d-printing-part-13-million-innovation-push-lush-cosmetics-123006/ [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].