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What Is Rapid Prototyping?

Posted by Rick Regole on Mon, April 2, 2018

Albeit risky, every project team faces a degree of trial and error during product development. That’s why teams have gotten remarkably good at calculating how product components will work together. If something that should work suddenly doesn't, it can bring production to a screeching halt. Thanks to evolving technology, top manufacturers offer a solution to this problem that quickly turns theory into fact. It’s called rapid prototyping, and it’s the stuff product developer’s dreams are made of.

Rapid prototyping: Fabricating a scale model of a physical part (e.g., modified connectors) using 3D printing to test the efficiency of a part or product design before high-volume manufacturing takes place.

Prototypes can be fully functional or for aesthetic evaluation. Instead of basing key decisions on educated assumptions, this service allows design teams to hold life-size product components in their hands. They can see the component in the physical world, feel its weight and plug it into the application. They can also determine that the component is an exact fit for the product before design issues create large-scale problems.

Beyond helping development teams validate their theories and confirm their technical requirements are met, rapid prototyping packs serious value. Here’s what you get:

The Benefits of Rapid Prototyping

A finished product is the result of many, many iterations. Before 3D printing and other technologies, each iteration took weeks, and sometimes months to come full circle. The fewer iterations, the better! Now that we have rapid prototyping, design teams can apply changes in hours, which makes all the difference in terms of cost, labor and turnaround time. A physical prototype is more accurate than a 2D mock-up, so design teams can catch and resolve design flaws early in the development process (before these flaws become costly mistakes). Most importantly, they can fail fast and fail safely, which provides them with the freedom to innovate.

The resulting product is of higher quality and goes to production faster than with traditional development processes. Higher quality impacts customer satisfaction and brand reputation. Faster turnaround and fail-safe development impacts capital and operational expenses. Everybody wins.

To recap:

  • Increase product quality
  • Make instant design changes
  • Identify and rectify flaws early on
  • Cut the cost and time of design
  • Drive customization beyond imagination
  • Decrease the time to production

The bottom line is this—companies that embrace technology and reinvent processes using modern advancements are coming out ahead. There is no better example of this phenomenon than in product development. With so much value to offer your development team, it would be crazy not to work with a manufacturer that offers rapid prototyping. The ROI is almost too easy to calculate.

Interested in more information about how to optimize your product development process? Check out our Rapid Prototyping Success Story.

Rapid Prototyping Case Study