Prototypes play a critical role in the design and development of a new product. They enable industry professionals involved in the manufacture of the product to test a potential design for fit and functionality, allowing them to identify opportunities for adjustment or enhancement. Some of the elements often affected by these tests include construction material, shape, size, color, and assembly requirements. For customers looking for a way to streamline the product development process, rapid prototyping is an ideal solution.
The term “rapid prototyping” encompasses a variety of manufacturing techniques and technologies used to generate a physical model from a computer-based design. While the exact specifications of the process depend on the method employed, each rapid prototyping solution follows the same basic concept: engineers load the CAD file into a specialized machine, which quickly and accurately reproduces the model in a physical medium. Compared to conventional prototyping methods, they allow product manufacturers to create functional models within hours or days rather than weeks. As such, product designs can be tested—and, if needed, altered—more thoroughly before production.
As indicated above, rapid prototyping refers to the creation of a physical representation of a part or assembly using computer-aided design (CAD) technology. The manufacturing methods used to produce the actual prototypes vary depending on the part and production specifications. While the most commonly employed is additive manufacturing (i.e., 3D printing), other techniques include machining, casting, molding, and extrusion.
Regardless of the manufacturing method employed, fast production speed is critical. This quality is essential to the rapid prototyping process as it is supposed to be able to produce models, incorporate design feedback, and test new iterations much faster than standard prototyping and production processes.
Rapid prototyping is best suited, but not limited to, small components, particularly those that could be usefully modeled in thermoplastics. Still, this scarcely narrows the field of applicable industries.
The Hendey Group serves a diverse customer base that finds utility in rapid prototyping for concept models or functional prototypes. Such industries include:
Rapid prototyping poses many benefits over alternative methods. Aside from its speed, it also carries advantages, such as:
Producing fully functioning prototypes will help ensure that potential investors understand your product’s purposes and capabilities. A well-executed prototype makes entrepreneurs appear more professional when meeting with potential investors, which gives them a big advantage.
During the above process, it is crucial to remain adaptable as new factors come into play that can affect the profitability of the product, such as:
The cost of rapid prototyping operations varies from project to project, depending on what is required by the customer. For example in dollars:
The optimal rapid prototyping process for a given product requires careful consideration. Each prototyping technique has its own strengths and weaknesses, which must be balanced against the constraints of your project. Most rapid prototyping will rely on a form of 3D printing but can also included, laser cutting, waterjet cutting, machining, casting, and even welding processes. The most common options are:
An alternative to the 3D printing processes mentioned above is urethane casting. This process utilizes 3D printed master patterns and silicone molds to cast urethane material into low-cost, high-quality precision parts. Similarly to 3D printing, it allows manufacturers to rapidly produce prototypes (and production-level parts), enabling them to have greater design flexibility.
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Prototyping is one of the most crucial stages of product development. A well-rendered model gives you the best possible insight as to the form and function of your final component. Rapid prototyping expedites the procedure, making it faster and easier to make critical design decisions.
At The Hendey Group, we draw on our extensive engineering experience to take your product from concept to reality, advising you on the best prototyping techniques along the way. For more information about how we can benefit your design, submit your inquiry today.