Why You Should Consider Rapid Prototyping in Product Development

Every product you have come across has gone through several stages, processes, and stages of product development before being manufactured. Among the various stages, processes and stages involved, the prototyping stage is a very important part. Prototyping involves creating a smaller model of a product through which designers can assess its quality, features, possible failure, etc.

Due to its importance, prototyping in manufacturing has taken a leap forward, resulting in the rise of rapid prototyping and its increased status instead of traditional techniques in today’s manufacturing world. Rapid prototyping is an important part of product development. Therefore, this article will introduce its importance in product development and common rapid prototyping processes. Below are some things you should know about rapid prototyping and product development as an engineer or product designer.

What is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping, from the name, means making a product/prototype very quickly and efficiently. In engineering terms, this means the rapid manufacture of a product using computer-aided design through additive or subtractive methods. Rapid prototyping is used to manufacture real products and/or prototypes used to assess the quality of the product used, characteristics, possible failures, etc.

Before the advent of rapid prototyping, there were traditional techniques. Traditional techniques were expensive because companies need one or two prototypes and traditional tools are more for mass production to take advantage of the costs. However, rapid prototyping removes all these drawbacks, leading to effective and efficient product development.

Benefits of rapid prototyping

Why you should consider employing rapid prototyping companies in product development comes from knowing the benefits of rapid prototyping itself. Below are its benefits related and suitable for product development.

  • Functionality and performance testing

Rapid prototyping includes techniques suitable for manufacturing products and prototypes. When used for a prototype, it allows easy testing of product functionality and performance. The prototype being a miniature version of the product, can be subjected to tests that evaluate its operation so that the appropriate correction can be made.

To implement the design of a product and ensure that it functions correctly, constant validation is necessary. If the actual product is subjected to such validation and proves to be insufficient, it will be necessary to constantly reproduce the product repeatedly. For traditional prototyping, this can lead to high costs due to wasted material and the need for new tools. However, with rapid prototyping, it’s a whole different story.

First of all, the rapid prototyping fraction ensures that you can manufacture the product quickly. Second, you don’t need to develop new tools for every new product using rapid prototyping techniques. Third, this technique is mostly automated, which reduces the cost of personnel and the amount of accumulated waste. These advantages are not visible in traditional prototyping techniques.

As the first real item before mass production, a prototype could help reduce risk. Defect detection is an important process in product development. Thanks to this, you can detect and reduce risks, and this is achievable by rapid prototyping.

Unlike traditional prototyping, due to the effective and efficient properties of rapid prototyping of making “prototypes”, it is possible to detect such defects easily. Therefore, designers can reduce the risk of usability and manufacturability before the official start of production.

Having one or more prototypes can help business people showcase their potential products to the public. This therefore allows them to obtain a return from the market. Depending on their product and market requirements, rapid prototyping will allow them to quickly adjust and re-present the product until the company gets market approval.

  • Communicate ideas effectively

Prototyping is a great way to communicate with the market, and rapid prototyping makes it extremely easy to do. However, before submitting your product for market comment, a prototype allows designers to communicate ideas to their colleagues and clients.

Moreover, it ensures that designers, colleagues and clients are open not only to on-screen designs, but also to real objects. This will allow them to understand the place needed to adjust or make corrections.

  • Design iteratively and incorporate changes instantly

Product design includes different stages that involve testing, evaluation and refinement in order to get the perfect/required product. An important element that you might need when designing a product is the need to incorporate changes. When you compare rapid prototyping, it’s harder to incorporate changes to traditional prototyping techniques. Therefore, rapid prototyping techniques can create prototypes and incorporate modifications to meet customer and market requirements. This, in turn, will lead to confidence in the design, designer and generation of competitive products

  • Offers innovative and creative opportunities

Rapid prototyping offers better opportunities as it removes the restrictions of traditional prototyping. For example, traditional prototyping techniques require you to produce prototypes of tools and components, which is expensive. However, rapid prototyping allows you to produce such prototypes of tools and components even if they have complex shapes and surfaces.

Rapid prototyping methods

What are the common rapid prototyping methods used in product development? Below are the two common methods.

Additive manufacturing (3d printing)

Most people think of rapid prototyping as additive manufacturing because it is a very efficient technique. However, it is not additive manufacturing. Simply put, additive manufacturing is part of a rapid prototyping technique that involves using a computer to build up layers of material to make a part. It is also called 3D printing. There are many types of 3D printing processes you can use. Popular ones include Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).

CNC machining (works for metal and plastic materials)

Unlike 3D printing, CNC (computer numerical control) machining is a subtractive process. Here, computer-controlled CNC tools remove or crumble a part in order to form the required product. CNC machining is compatible with many materials of metallic and plastic origin. It includes processes such as cutting, boring, drilling and grinding and is suitable for manufacturing parts with complex designs.

CNC tools are compatible with plastics and metals. However, unlike additive manufacturing, they are more complicated to operate. The processes required, such as tooling, handling, positioning and processing, require expertise, making it an expensive process. Nevertheless, this is the correct method to use for designs that are not feasible or cost effective to produce with additive manufacturing.

Conclusion

Rapid prototyping is becoming an important part of product development as it helps designers to avoid risks during production, business owners to pitch their ideas and get market feedback, etc.

Gary C. Lisi