The single main idea and ultimate goal behind rapid prototyping is to iteratively check and improve design concepts by getting constant feedback from customers, designers and manufacturers to keep the design and production life cycle in the right direction and guarantee an eventual successful outcome, thus saving time and money that would otherwise be invested/wasted in futile attempts to manufacture products that are technically or economically not feasible or are not what the consumer or clients need.
But anyone who ever has set foot on an adventure in the rapid prototyping field knows probably well that this very process can become in itself a wasteland that eats up money without yielding the desired results.
To avoid the common pitfalls of rapid prototyping, we have outlined a few simple guidelines that help to get the desired results.
Recent advances in the 3D printing technology and the fast pace by which 3D printing costs are decreasing are real temptations that encourage one to produce final grade products right away. Finally, we can create a whole product without the need for a single engineer.
But the fact is that every small change made to a part of the final product will have a ripple effect that goes through half of the other parts of the end product.
The goal of rapid prototyping is to prove a concept through feedback from different stakeholders. So the prototype will be tossed away when you have the required data you need. As such, it should be kept to a minimum unless you are in the final stage of your iterations.
Resist the temptation to create the final product right away. Instead, do it in iterations and step by step, focusing each time on a part and its particular goals.
Prototypes are for 3 main stakeholder parties:
Having these different parties in mind will help you to clearly define the purpose of each iteration in rapid prototyping and will enable you to realistically define project scope.
In rapid prototyping, fidelity is the level of realism a prototype is required to achieve. Fidelity parameters are many and can differ from project to project but some of them are as follows:
Answering these and quite a few other questions will help us to avoid investing in unnecessary areas and keep the procedure agile and competitive.
The iterative nature of the rapid prototyping craft is what makes it actually rapid. So, whether you intend to gain consumer feedback, convey the design clearly to engineers to avoid later problems, or just need to convince the managing board about the design, keep it iterative.
By increasing your prototypes fidelity in iterations, you can incorporate the collected data and feedback into the next prototype while gradually approaching the final fidelity level. This way, you’ll be able to keep rapid prototyping “rapid”.
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