Andrew, thanks for your comment, and sorry for the late reply (for some reason, I don't get comment notifications). It is true that printing time is a known limitation when considering 3D printing for production. However, there are some new technologies in 3D printing that have significantly increased printing speeds, particularly in commercial-grade machines, and technologies are rapidly advancing, which will hopefully make 3D printing more feasible for mass manufacturing in the near future. Additionally, there is an opportunity for applications using PLA powder in laser sintering 3D systems, which tend to be faster than fused filament deposition methods.
Kate Rushton , thanks for your comments! With regards to prototyping, we were trying to capture the fact that the technology already exists and is proven in a local market (Japan) and not just a new concept, but there wasn't an appropriate choice for the development stage. However, we do have established networks of Americans, for example, that have lived or are living in Japan that we could leverage for feedback.
As for changes to manufacturing/supply chain, currently all manufacturing is done in Japan. We would like to work with the original manufacturer and leverage their experience to get things rolling, but eventually, we'd like to see more local manufacturing in the regions that the product will serve. This will likely require new tooling and/or modifications to existing equipment, but given that the construction is similar to that of existing tear-off containers, we hope to be able to convert existing tear-off production lines into production lines for these foldable containers. Our initial focus would be on the utilization of new materials that are both recyclable and compostable/biodegradable, which would allow the containers to accommodate current waste management behaviors but also adapt to new and innovative recycling efforts/technologies as they are developed and implemented.
Lauren Ito , thanks for the comments! Based on our market research, standard-sized (16-22 oz) paper cups are ~1.5-2x more expensive than hot and cold lids (depending on size). However, smaller paper cups (9 oz) are significantly less expensive (~1.25x lids), which suggests that lids of this construction should be able to be produced at a comparable price point as existing cold and hot plastic lids.
Plastic lids are fabricated using completely different materials, equipment, and processes than paper cups. This solution allows cup manufacturers to streamline processes, which can have potential savings with respect to capital investments as well as maintenance, training, logistics, and labor costs. We have done limited market research at this point, but we have not seen other lids (other than soup container lids) that utilize the same materials, and even those are a different process (however, we've included those style lids in our proposal as an alternative). By utilizing the same basic construction and materials as standard paper cups, we believe this design offers significant value to paper cup manufacturers, particularly those with limited resources and those that do not currently offer plastic lid products.