The gap between inspirational, creative design and comprehension is not always easily bridged when speaking to coworkers, managers or potential customers. You may fully understand what you’re saying. But without a prototype explaining your idea others may be left adrift. All too often, designers face the difficulty of trying to relate to their coworkers, management or clients just how a proposed product will look, function and feel when being used. So, what is rapid prototyping and why you might need it?
While a picture may be worth a thousand words, actually holding the product in your hand can sometimes be much better. Even with all the advances made in 3-D modeling and computer graphic visualization, many people prefer a physical version of a product so they can know it actually works. This is where rapid prototyping can come in. But just what is rapid prototyping and what are its advantages?
What Is Rapid Prototyping?
The rapid prototyping technique, often referred to as additive manufacturing, is an approach that is increasingly popular among manufacturers and engineering designers. This is because it provides a highly accurate and extremely fast way to physically represent and realize a specific product’s potential and capabilities.
It has the advantage over more traditional approaches like paper prototyping of resulting in:
- Much higher quality;
- Higher fidelity prototype based on the original design concept.
What Is Rapid Prototyping Offering?
Rapid prototyping offers a number of significant advantages. This is why this technology has become so ubiquitous in the design and manufacturing sectors.
- For one thing, it is perfect for creating fully accurate design concepts. Rapid prototyping permits designers to offer their coworkers, managers and clients a representation of the product or part in question. This sample is far superior to what could be achieved through other physical or graphics visualizations.
- This capability makes it possible to appreciate the feel, look and impact of a specific design. Imagine this in comparison with having to imagine these aspects by staring at a 3-D model on a screen. For designers, this means they can more easily modify their designs. Also, they are able to implement changes prior to product design finalization.
- Management or clients can quickly receive a high quality proof of concept when they are considering whether to move forward with a proposed product or not.
4 Reasons You Should Consider Rapid Prototyping
1. On Time No Matter What
Is rapid prototyping the answer to all your manufacturing problems? Of course not, but one advantage it offers is speed. Having the ability to produce prototypes this quickly makes it possible to introduce changes almost instantaneously based on a customer’s feedback. Before finalizing any design, rapid prototyping allows a designer and manufacturer to go through a number of iterations before finalizing the item.
Within each of these iterated steps, the design can be further improved. Specialists do this in a way that reassures everyone concerned with the production of the new product. It also means that it’s easier to manufacture products that actually meet market needs and demands. This results in new products that are more competitive and are more likely to receive a good vote from the buying public.
2. Savings in Time and Cost
What is rapid prototyping doing for efficiency? Because of rapid prototyping’s manufacturing approach, the extra time and costs involved in developing special tools, patterns and industrial molds can be avoided. This is because the 3-D printing equipment and CAD software you use to produce one item or product can just as effectively produce an entirely different one.
Also, other approaches to prototyping – such as CNC machining – produce large amounts of wasted material. But rapid prototyping through additive manufacturing only uses as much material as is required to create the prototype item. This makes it a financially and environmentally sound approach to creating a prototype.
3. Customized Client Designs
Another tremendous advantage offered by rapid prototyping is that it provides the ability for designers to develop products based on a client’s specific requirements. In other words, rapid prototyping makes for easy customization to meet client needs. In part, this is because no specialized processes or new tools are necessary when introducing either small or major design changes to the proposed product.
All the designer has to do when making such changes is to modify the CAD model for the design to meet the new requirements. From that point, the entire prototyping process is precisely the same. For manufacturers employing this approach, this can be a powerful way to make customers feel that they are included in their product’s developmental process.
4. Avoiding Costly Design Flaws
What is rapid prototyping doing for quality? The ability to quickly produce multiple iterations of a given design makes it much easier to detect any flaws in that design before moving on to factory production of the product. This can provide tremendous savings. You can avoid disaster if something is seriously wrong with the design. Product recalls are the last thing any business wants to deal with.
Usually, the materials being used for rapid prototyping closely match the strength and other properties of the materials used for the final product. So this makes it easy to carry out physical tests. You can identify any usability problems or fault risks. Therefore, you can solve the problems before the design hits the factory. This also reduces the need for retooling on the factory floor after the discovery of an undetected flaw.
The employment of rapid prototyping in designing and developing products is a smart business move. Therefore, many organizations are embracing to minimize costs and loss of time. In today’s highly competitive marketplace, this technology makes it much easier for manufacturers to produce and market products in a timely and cost-effective manner.
As the above has made clear, when you are considering the creation of a new prototype, rapid prototyping can make the process much more efficient. At the very least, when someone asks you what is rapid prototyping? you’ll now be able to answer with some confidence.