Prototyping new products is essential if you want to ensure a quality design before hitting the market. For many industries, however, prototyping has been something of a chokepoint when performed using traditional tools and techniques (in addition to being prohibitively expensive at times). Rapid prototyping may hold the answer to surmounting this bottleneck in the product creation phase, and this article will lay out some of the basics so you see what it’s all about.
What Is Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid prototyping refers to a collection of techniques that you can use to quickly produce a physical model for a product. It relies heavily on technology like Computer-Aided Design (CAD). While a common misconception is that rapid prototyping is no different than 3D printing, the reality is that prototyping considers the entire process that leads toward the end product (a prototype) while 3D printing is one process that can help you generate a prototype—like CNC machining online or any other specific fabrication technique that can play a role:
- Selective laser sintering
- Direct metal laser sintering
- Fused deposition modelling
- Binder jetting
- Poly jetting
- CNC machining
- Vacuum casting
- Investment casting
Why Rapid Prototyping Is Important
So why would businesses choose rapid prototyping? First and foremost, it helps them explore their ideas faster than ever before. Whereas old-school prototyping techniques would take time and cost a considerable amount more, the processes associated with rapid prototyping allow you to go from simple visualizations to physical concepts quickly, and aids with comparing different ideas so you can bring the best products to market fast.
Inherent in this speedy process is the idea that you can really capitalize upon the iterative aspects of the design process. By nature, designing something involves multiple rounds of generating an idea, testing it out with a prototype, and evaluating that prototype against your metrics for success. With rapid prototyping in place, you get to go from one stage to the next faster, implement your changes almost instantaneously, and overall, design a better product.
Because rapid prototyping helps save time, it can also help save on costs. Depending on what sort of technologies you use, there may be no need to implement different setups, change tools, etc.—all things that could add time and money to a traditional prototyping process.
Down the line, rapid prototyping also helps companies save money because it allows them to hone in on flaws in their designs and correct these flaws in a way that maximizes product quality. This, in turn, minimizes the risk of having to make huge, costly revisions further in the product generation phase. Next, let’s see how you can get the most out of your prototypes.
Applying Rapid Prototyping To Your Needs
Rapid prototyping now enjoys a range of applications, but you’ll need to plan carefully to ensure that you employ it to its best effect. You’ll want to stay cognizant of some of the drawbacks, for instance, like the need for skilled labor to carry out the varying techniques involved in the process.
You’ll also want to make sure your business understands when to prototype, what works best within the rapid prototyping process, and how you can proceed most efficiently from your ideas to actual physical models. Working with a professional can help in this regard, so it may also be worth the time to research manufacturers who specialize in the rapid prototyping process and can guide you toward your ultimate goals.