3D printers have hit the headlines in the last couple of years, with small start-up businesses taking advantage of the reduced costs of manufacturing prototypes that this technology provides. But a new 3D printer is set to challenge the beauty industry, as it allows you to actually 3D print your own make-up.
The Mink 3D printer is the brainchild of inventor Grace Choi, a student at Harvard Business School, who demonstrated the device at the Disrupt NY conference last week. The printer aims to target the restrictions that the make-up industry impose, by allowing customers the chance to custom make their own make-up, in a choice of any color and material. At present, beauty products are limited to popular colors, whereas the more daring shades are left off the palette.
The way the Mink 3D Printer works is that the user takes a picture of any color they fancy, so it could be a sofa in a particular shade of pink, or the blood red of an apple, then they upload this to Photoshop in order to attain the special ‘Hex code’ of the color (this is a 6-digit alphanumeric code that identifies specific shades). You then copy and paste this Hex code into your printer’s software, add your ingredients, whether they be powders or creams, and print away. By using the proper make-up industry ingredients, any product combining any color can be produced, and at a fraction of the retail price.
The Mink 3D printer is thought to be priced at $200, quite an expensive outlay in the short-term, but for those who want a wider choice of colors, this is certainly going to be an investment in the long-term. And for those who may be put off by not knowing the exact ingredients that go into certain make-up products, Ms Choi says that they are called subtrates, which form the basis of all the make-up that the industry giants use. These subtrates are then mixed with other ingredients to manufacture the products we know today. The Mink 3D printer then mixes these ingredients with the inkjet pigment to form the exact bespoke color the user wants.
Ms Choi is targeting the printer to younger consumers who don’t have a particular loyalty to one brand, and are perhaps a little more innovative that older ladies, and eager to try new things. In her opinion, girls aged between 13 and 21 are more likely to value convenience over brand loyalty, and have ever changing tastes that would suit the printer.
So far the 3D printer has received favourable reviews from the public, but the beauty industry may not be so enamoured. As it is not possible for stores to stock every single color under the sun, especially with stores that sell the cheaper brands and have a small amount of space dedicated to beauty products, these retailers may be hit by the new printer. And even bigger retailers, who have a larger shelf area can sell the more unique and limited colors, although these do tend to be much more expensive, will not be immune from the competition that the Mink is set to offer.
In an interview with Tech Crunch, Ms Choi said that she hoped her Mink printer would shake up the beauty industry: “Big make-up companies take the pigment and the subtrates and mix them together and then jack the price. We do the same thing and let you get the make-up right in your own house.”
The Mink 3D printer will be available early next year.