In the past, prototyping a product meant outing together a makeshift mock-up that may only vaguely resemble the final product in terms of form. The introduction of technologies like 3D printing is changing all of that, though. What used to be too much trouble for designers to create is now just a few button pushes away. If you’re on the outside looking in, here are some ways that you can use 3D printing to help enhance your product prototyping.
Getting the Right Tool for the Job
Before you start creating all your prototypes with a 3D printer, it’s first important to make sure that you have a good understanding of 3D technology. Not all 3D printers are the same, and different jobs call for machines that have different capabilities. Before you begin any project, when you’re still in the design phase, make sure to research the different options available to you. A simple model, for example, is very different from a prototype that replicates a rare material or which has a lot of moving parts. Even when you are in between projects, it’s important to study. The more you know about the process as a whole, the more effectively you can leverage 3D printing to make your product great.
Diagnosing Early Stage Problems
One of the most useful places where 3D printing can help product development is during the early stages of prototyping. Typical early stage prototypes tend to vary wildly from the final form of the product, due largely to the fact that what seems to work early on actually has troubles functioning when real parts and development get implemented. By using 3D printing for prototype models, you can create something which adheres more to your vision of the final product. This also allows you to create moving parts and a functioning model. That way, you know earlier on if there are any parts of the project which won’t work correctly and you’ll have more time to repair and streamline key areas.
Unless you have plans to create a model rather than a true prototype, you need to think in terms of the collective pieces rather than the product as a whole. You should choose a material that roughly equates with the final materials you are going to use. From there, you need to develop each component separately and then assemble them into the finished prototype. By doing this, you are ensuring that your prototype is more than just a replica of what you plan to eventually create. Instead, it is effectively an early work version that may even be fully functional, able to provide not only proof of concept but also proof of utility.
The more you know about the 3D printing process, the more effectively you can leverage it to create excellent prototypes that other technologies cannot duplicate. As 3D printing becomes more commonplace, the development costs will be even less expensive and the eventual range of devices you can create will be virtually without limit.