Why did Modern Business need to Look into Rapid Prototyping?
Are you a part of the product manufacturing industry? If so, rapid prototyping may not be as obscure a term to you as it is to the end consumer. The consumption of products (and services too, but we’ll stick to products) is what drives most modern economic systems. Businesses manufacture products, and consumers use them.
The more customers use a product, the more manufacturers will make it. Successful products are the result of constant research and development, to keep improving the utility of the product compared to the competition. This fast-paced commercial activity has led to the development of a new product engineering field, called rapid prototyping. But what it is? Why does your business need it?
What is Prototyping?
Improving product design is different from improving service delivery. For example, with my Spectrum internet plans, the provider may continue to upgrade its infrastructure and deliver better performance. But the hardware such as my internet modem and router generally stay constant for a few years.
Product design is vastly different. With digital services, upgrading and improving the service is usually done by web developers and software engineers, involving straightforward (but not simple!) coding.
But when you’re talking about physical consumer items, product development involves people like product engineers, market researchers, and product developers among others. The process involves several stages such as research, development, design, prototyping, and testing.
Prototyping is essentially the creation of scale models or dummies that are an accurate representation of the final product. It has a variety of uses not just in product development and engineering, but also in making engaging sales pitches to potential investors, customers, and stakeholders. Rapid prototyping is the latest form of product prototyping in the 21st Century.
How Is Rapid Prototyping Different?
Rapid prototyping in today’s context refers to a series of streamlined methods that allow you to create a scale model of your product in a fast and continuous setting. Modern rapid prototyping typically uses CAD (computer-aided technology) data.
The recent developments in 3D printing have allowed businesses to use CAD data to generate scale prototypes in much tighter timelines than conventional prototyping. How does it work? The rapid prototyping approach is based on additive manufacturing, i.e. creating a visual replica as close to perfection as possible, as many times as you want.
This is different from subtractive manufacturing, which usually involves removing various parts from product design.
This is because 3D printing follows the CAD system’s three-dimensional design prompts. The product prototype is usually created layer by layer using rubber, plastic, or other synthetic materials. Sophisticated 3D printers can even create mechanical parts such as gears or springs that help the prototype function.
Why Should You Use Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid prototyping can be used across a diverse range of manufacturing industries. The method offers several distinct benefits that allow manufacturing concerns to significantly reduce their prototyping timelines and costs. Some of the most useful benefits in terms of successful product design and development include:
More Opportunities For Product Testing
Rapid prototyping makes it much easier to create prototypes, which automatically implies you have more opportunities to test your product early on in the process. With the ability to create multiple prototypes quickly and repeatedly, you can design and test products much faster, and continuously refine the final design.
Testing is an extremely important part of product development, allowing you to identify flaws in design or function before the product goes into production.
As any manufacturer understands, manufacturing a well-tested, refined, flaw-free product is much cheaper than manufacturing faulty products and then recalling them for remedial action. That’s not to mention the potential risks of tort litigation.
Simple and Cost-Efficient Prototyping
For most manufacturing businesses, minimizing production costs is just as important as maximizing product profitability. The more time and money you spend on product development costs, the higher the unit cost of the finished product. Inefficiently managed development phases, such as prototyping that takes too long, add to the development costs associated with the final product.
A few years ago, using 3D printers for rapid prototyping would have been a very expensive proposition for small or mid-sized manufacturers. However, thanks to modern 3D printers and advanced prototyping techniques, businesses are not only able to afford prototyping technology, but also use it to create near-perfect prototypes at a much lower cost. This, in turn, reduces product design, testing, and prototyping costs considerably.
Quicker Turnaround Times To Realize Product Concepts
Modern rapid prototyping isn’t just about offering businesses cost-efficient prototyping solutions. One of the key benefits it holds is the ability to turn a product concept into a physical prototype in a fraction of the time it would take with conventional prototypes. This means the time it would normally take your product engineers to realize a product design concept is significantly reduced.
Advanced CAD systems and autonomous 3D printers can work on the prototype continuously without breaks. Depending on the size and complexity of the prototype, you may be able to create several rapid prototypes in less time than you would be able to create a single conventional one. This allows product design experts to evaluate the representation, and adjust or refine the design as needed before final production.
Reduces Manufacturing Timelines Significantly
Traditionally, prototypes have been a key aspect of any manufacturing process. However, most businesses usually consider it a bottleneck and it’s easy to see why.
Very few final products are exactly the same as the first prototype. It is far more likely to encounter design flaws, problems with the product’s functions or features, and other key issues during testing. These normally prompt designers to back to the drawing board and try again.
Often, this process goes through multiple iterations before you can finalize a prototype for your finished product. Otherwise, you end up manufacturing a faulty product, and you’ll have to deal with a barrage of complaints. So, unless you want to end up creating a dedicated customer service function to handle complaints, such as the Spectrum phone number, rapid prototyping may be the best option.
Thanks to the technology that allows us to create three-dimensional digital models and translate them into 3D printed physical products, the conventional prototyping bottleneck eases significantly. That means you can improve your manufacturing timelines to a large degree.