Although prototyping has always been an essential element in the engineering and design process, it has been known to slow product design and development. If you offered prototyping services back in the 1940s and could beat a 7 – 10-week lead time, you could comfortably play within the prototyping market.
Everything changed after 1952, with the arrival of machining technologies that offered rapid prototyping capabilities, allowing product designers to create parts in a matter of hours. Since that time, the global rapid prototyping market has grown year after year and is now projected to be worth $2.6 billion by 2025.
This article presents 4 benefits of rapid prototyping to product designers and engineers. But before we delve right into it, let’s briefly explain what rapid prototyping entails.
What is Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid prototyping is a process that allows you to quickly and efficiently fabricate a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) model of a physical assembly or part. It employs techniques such as 3D printing, CNC machining, injection molding, and urethane molding to create prototype parts.
These prototype parts take different forms and perform different functions. Some prototypes are used for a mere visual representation of ideas and concepts, while others are put through testing to troubleshoot design flaws. (Related Post: Aluminum Prototype Manufacturing: How do You Determine the Best Method)
The 4 Most Important Advantages of Rapid Prototyping
Advantage No. 1 Speed
The major advantage of rapid prototyping is speed. Rapid prototyping machines rely on 3D CAD models and computer instructions to create prototype parts. They eliminate the need for extensive manual setup and tooling, leading to a significant time reduction between the initial design stage and the fabrication of the final products.
What’s more, the time savings from the rapid prototyping process allows you to gain a competitive advantage since you can quickly bring new products to the market ahead of your competitors.
Advantage No. 2 Test a Full Range of Designs
The increased speed of fabrication that rapid prototyping offers has completely revolutionized the engineering design process. Product designers can now quickly test different complex designs that would be otherwise extremely difficult, costly, and time-intensive to produce using conventional machining techniques.
Through rapid prototyping tests, you can quickly understand the trade-offs between the function and aesthetic of a part. This then allows you to refine concepts, modify parts and create new features necessary for the part to function as desired.
Advantage No.3 Rapid Prototyping is Cost-Effective
3D printing, CNC machining, and other modern-day rapid prototyping processes are helping to reduce development costs, especially for small production runs. This is because automated manufacturing processes reduce wastes and the cost of operators. Additionally, they are compatible with a wide range of materials, so you don’t have to worry about developing special tools.
Advantage No. 4 Rapid Prototyping is Allowing Product Designers to Eliminate Risks
Every machined part or component has its risks; failure risk, financial risk, and compliance risk, among others. Because rapid prototyping allows you to see a design in hand before mass production, you get to mitigate the risk of costly and critical errors.
Some Disadvantages of Rapid Prototyping
Like with all other machining processes, rapid prototyping has its cons. Here are 2 disadvantages of rapid prototyping
#1 Rapid Prototyping Requires Skilled Labor
Although pretty much the whole rapid prototyping process is fully automated, there’s still a need for operators and technicians to program rapid prototyping machines and supervise the machining operations.
Only a few machine shops have highly experienced and skilled technicians capable of creating high-quality prototype parts exactly to your specification.
#2 Quality Control is Often Neglected
When product designers reach out to machine shops for rapid prototyping services, they usually want prototype parts to be produced within a limited period. To meet this deadline, most machine shops neglect quality control when creating prototypes.
In a small-scale production, the cost of this negligence would be negligible. But for complicated projects featuring many complex components, the cost of design failure is huge! You want to make sure you’re working with a reliable third-party rapid prototyping service provider.
Working with a Rapid Prototyping Service Provider
So, let’s say you’ve got a complex design and are looking to create prototype parts. Rapid prototyping makes sense due to the advantages we mentioned earlier. However, these advantages wouldn’t matter much if, after a few days, you receive low-quality and unusable parts from your third-party manufacturer.
That’s why it is essential to work with a machine shop that provides high-quality rapid prototyping services. Gensun Precision Machining has been a popular name in the manufacturing industry for nearly two decades, providing high-quality machining services. Learn more about Gensun Precision Machining’s rapid prototyping services.