Product designers always have great concepts and ideas in mind and these ideas have the potential to engender remarkable success. Normally, when these ideas are taken, analyzed, and developed into models, they have a strong chance of solving a predetermined problem.
But while the person in charge of product design and development can easily visualize and understand these digital models, it can get really difficult to relay the message to others. Sadly ‘others’ can be members of staff, investors, or even the clients.
These people are not always able to visualize a product in its design stage and, as such, they can have reasonable doubt as to how well the design is or how effective it would be in the market.
Rapid prototyping emerged to solve this problem.
What is Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid prototyping, as the name implies, involves the accelerated creation of a prototype in order to aptly demonstrate the aim of the design. Rapid prototyping usually relies on sophisticated computer programs for the design process and 3D printers for the actual production.
The Process of Rapid Prototyping
The whole process is best described as an additive one since the models are created by joining raw materials together. Some examples of these raw materials are photopolymers, thermoplastics, metal powders and ceramic powders. This is opposed to usual industrial practices which are mostly compressive and subtractive.
There are different techniques for rapid prototyping with the most common and industry standard being Stereolithography. Others include selective laser sintering, fused deposition modeling, solid ground curing, laminated object manufacturing, directed light fabrication, and many others.
Rapid prototyping mostly shows how a product would look and function, and may not show how strong a product would be. This is because prototypes are not usually made from same material as the final product.
Benefits of Rapid Prototyping
Although the concept of rapid prototyping is hailed as a messiah among product designers and other tech enthusiasts, it might not be so revered among ‘others’. This is, perhaps, due to limited understanding of what it offers.
Let’s attempt to study some of the benefits of rapid prototyping.
Rapid Prototyping Aids Concept Realization
With rapid prototyping, it is now very easy for designers to see their ideas in real time. This ability to bring visualizations to reality makes it easy to explain ideas, see how well these ideas pan out and can help in proffering new ideas. In addition to this, designers can now implement more complicated ideas since rapid prototyping mitigates the inherent constraints.
Rapid Prototyping Saves Cost, Effort, and Time
Rapid prototyping has now made it significantly cheaper for designers to produce prototypes. Before the emergence of rapid prototyping, designers had to wait for months before prototypes could be completed and these prototypes were expensive to produce.
The erstwhile exorbitant cost of prototyping undoubtedly stopped a lot of designs from coming to life as reservations about its viability made potential clients lose interest. But now, with rapid prototyping, the need for special tools, molds, and patterns has been eliminated and the same machine can be used to create different designs.
Rapid Prototyping Facilitates the Speedy Correction of Flaws
Designers can now immediately correct defects noticed in the products before mass production begins. Feedback received based on the prototype can now be worked on as soon as possible. Designers can also implement the different suggestions a client has to ascertain its feasibility.
With this process, the developer can keep iterating the design until they achieve the best possible product. Firms can now deliver products that are actually desired by the client, instead of designing half-baked prototypes.
It Facilitates Easy Production of Difficult Parts
Tiny parts of models that were previously hard to design or produce are now easy to create. With rapid prototyping, parts with minute internal cavities and complex geometric designs are created without stress. This gives designers the opportunity to get creative with their ideas.
Rapid Prototyping Allows for Customization
Some clients might like a product without some of the available features. As we continue to enjoy advancement of technology, human expectations go off the roof and this establishes the importance of customization.
With rapid prototyping, designers can now easily alter models of previously created designs. These designs can now be easily tweaked to fit any new requirements and clients can also feel safe when they change the designs. With just one change in the CAD model, the prototype comes out different with no special tools, patterns, or molds involved.
Enhanced Time to Market
With rapid prototyping, companies can get their products to the public as fast as possible. Prototypes can be accessed quickly to check for viability and designs can be configured within the stipulated timeframe to fit the taste of the public.
Rapid prototyping is of benefit to several industries in numerous ways. Apart from the fact that it helps increase the speed and accuracy of production, it also helps companies cut cost, ultimately enabling them to satisfy their clients better.