Prototyping refers to the initial stage where product development, evaluation, and product fixes happen before initiating the bigger release. These activities are also referred to as beta testing or beta phase, where an initial product can be released, and the project evaluated before mass production or full development which is from prototype to production. Some of the benefits include low-cost tooling, proving the concept and design to attract funding, availing parts for trade shows and the parts can be subject to engineering evaluation before the completion of production tooling.
One of the major challenges that product designers encounter, is not having the capacity to make in-house management or clients to visualize how the product will actually feel or look after production. Despite advancements made in 3d cad technologies explaining design aspect in digital models, it’s not still effective as it ends up with a lot of questions, mainly when it comes to proving. As such, rapid prototyping and additive technology are significantly becoming more important to engineers, designers, and manufacturers as it is offering accurate and faster ways to realize the potential of a product. By use of prototype technology, you have high fidelity from conceptualized design, unlike other conventional methods.
From its conception in the 1980s, rapid prototyping is becoming an important process in production and manufacturing. It adds value to the cycle of product development, enabling products to be developed, tested and manufactured without production tooling, and brings financial benefits
Rapid prototyping technically is the group of techniques applied to fabricate a model faster than the usual prototyping method. It assists engineers to save time in the design and development cycle. It is referred to as layered, solid free-form, and computer automated manufacturing. The process is classified as an additive process. Basing on the 3D data model, an object is produced by combining the materials layer by layer. The materials used in the process are thermoplastic, photopolymer, and adhesives. Rapid prototyping, therefore, offers many advantages in the production process and has high impacts on production cost
Improvement in design development and testing
Rapid prototyping offers the designers the opportunity to improve their design in the early stage, by making them have a visual and physical understanding of the product or an item earlier. Also, they are able to test the item at the design stage and make the required improvements making the quality of the product much better
Rapid prototyping enables flexibility in design manufacturing and design stages. It offers an organization the capacity to make solid physical objects by using freeform methods. Prototypes method and evaluation models can be made quickly without a commitment to mass production. This reduces design development time significantly, due to its strength of quick editing and adoption of digital features before generating the developed model by 3D method of printing. This improved flexibility offers the opportunity to explore new design opportunities and avenues resulting in better concept.
Marketing time reduction
Rapid prototyping fastens the production development rate and enables the manufacturer to have a quicker return on their investment by starting production tooling at a very early stage. Through additive manufacturing, they are able to quickly build accurate, working and functional prototypes, and bring them to the market sooner. It also helps manufacturers intending to undertake product testing to get valuable user feedback which can enable them to improve the design and ultimately improve their product.
The process can reduce uncertainties on the product design. This is because the designers are able to access more information about the features and the design of the product at the prototyping stage. By having accurate prototypes, the designers focus more on product and design improvement.
Like an additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping enables greater customization at lower volumes when compared to other manufacturing techniques. An organization is able to develop the existing product, and create new ones without additional machinery or further tooling costs. The designers have greater freedom to make novel shapes and structure of any complexity without being tied by time and cost limitations as seen in the traditional manufacturing process.
Introduction of software in rapid prototype process allows for complex digital analysis of loads and stress to within component. This data is vital as it makes it possible to remove non-load bearing material from the product, hence reducing the Weight without necessarily affecting internal strength and structure. This manufacturing process is for making lattice structure that reduces the general weight, provides essential support and reduces the production material. In rapid prototyping, the material is added when required and this makes it a highly efficient process. Compared to the traditional manufacturing where machine process is subtractive, additive manufacturing can make significant cost reduction by minimizing waste, more so when expensive materials are in use.
Some Rapid prototyping process doesn’t require tooling at all while others have a short tooling lifespan. This enables alteration and test and the manufacturers are able to release products in controlled batches to make a trail and make improvements to the design using the feedbacks. Through continued investment in People and technology, businesses have come up with production capacities and flexible methods to complete projects in a wide range of sectors including, aerospace. Oil and gas, automotive, defense and medical