In the design and development phase, product designers can often face stiff reactions from clients or even company management staff who can be hard to get buy in from for particular concept or vision. No doubt though, and one can’t blame them, as they have to invest a lot of resources in a product line often at times without even having a real prototype for testing. Explaining design concepts through 3D models isn’t enough when it comes to taking financial risks and investing money.
Therefore, additive manufacturing, as part of a larger set of rapid prototyping techniques has gained much attention among designers, managing staff, manufacturers and even the clients. Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon for a client to ask from the start for a 3D printed model so that they can really see the concept. With this technique, one can realize the potential of a product in a fast and accurate way. The intrinsic advantages of additive manufacturing in the rapid prototyping industry have made it the common denominator for all the stakeholders of the industry.
Here are 5 key advantages of additive manufacturing techniques to the rapid prototyping industry:
3D printing enables designers to realize their ideas in an early phase and beyond the traditional virtual visualization. This empowers all the stakeholders, the designer included, to have a real feel and understanding for the design, rather than trying to visualize and assume it through a computerized 3D model. This helps designers to recognize the flaws of their designs in an early phase and incorporate any necessary changes before finalizing and presenting it to the client. On the other hand, the managing staff and client will get the proof of concept they need to authorize resource commitments, facilitating the whole process of getting approval for a product.
Additive manufacturing as a rapid prototyping technique enables designers to incorporate changes instantly. These changes can be technical or design flaws that are only recognizable in a real created model or via comments from the client. So, the whole design can be converted to an iterative process, where with each iteration, the design is improved. Since customer feedback is incorporated into the product from the beginning, a very high rate of satisfaction is achievable and developing competitive products for an increasingly faster-changing market is made possible.
One of the great promises of rapid prototyping is the possibility of bespoke products made for individual requirements. As opposed to normal manufacturing techniques, additive manufacturing uses universal raw materials, which enables the manufacturer to switch easily between diverse customizations of a product without worrying about material waste. 3D printing setup and preparation are also minimal and won’t cost extra time and money as in traditional manufacturing processes. Small changes in the digital 3D model are easy to do and then the rest of the whole process stays the same.
3D printing techniques have a minimal setup cost and the money and time necessary for creating molds and special tools can be saved. The same software and hardware are used to 3D print different products and unlike traditional rapid prototyping techniques like CNC machining, there is virtually no waste material and in stock raw material can be kept to a minimum.
With additive manufacturing, you can identify flaws and problems before going to mass production. The materials available for 3D printing increasingly resemble the properties of the real final product, enabling developers to put the product to physical tests without much investment in the manufacturing process. Going into mass production without identifying even minor flaws and defects can cost a business millions of dollars. The fast and cost effective iterative nature of additive manufacturing for rapid prototyping enables engineers and designers to minimize design flaws and related costs in terms of money and time.
Using rapid prototyping techniques in the design and manufacturing process is something that cannot be ignored and must be encouraged in the industry. In a fiercely competitive and fast-changing landscape, this very advantage can make or break a business. There is so much promise and potential in this technology and it’s easy to see why so many people are so excited about it and investing in it.
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