Briefly explained – Rapid Prototyping

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How does Rapid Prototyping advance me and my company?

To test an idea, it’s worth creating a prototype. Most people know this and often this proof of concept is carried out before investing in the production of a new offer. The problem here is that the production of a prototype is often already very time-consuming and costly and requires almost as much preparation and resources as the actual manufacturing process of the final product. This is annoying if the prototype does not arrive as desired in practice. This is where rapid prototyping comes in. It allows you to produce a prototype that is suitable to validate your idea, but saves you investments. Different versions can also be tested much faster. Here we explain what rapid prototyping is, how it works and whether it is suitable for you.

What is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is an umbrella term for different techniques that enable scale-based models to be produced using CAD data (computer-supported design data). These look like the original product and work like this. However, Rapid Prototyping is not aimed at producing a final product, but only at producing prototypes or small batches. Additive manufacturing, rapid manufacturing, rapid tooling or simply 3D printing are often said to rapid prototyping. There are now more than 30 different techniques and procedures for rapid prototyping worldwide.

The first forms of 3D printing were already in the 1980s. Since then, a lot has happened in this area and 3D printing is now ideally suited for the production of prototypes. This technique allows you to accurately represent both the size and design, as well as the way it works, making it suitable for proofing. Rapid protoyping can be used to produce concept models or working prototypes. It is also used very gladly and successfully to test the manufacturability. By means of small batches produced by 3D printing, errors in the production process can be detected and avoided at an early stage.
The models can be interacted with, so you get pretty close to the final product when testing. Misunderstandings due to insufficient visualization of a concept are avoided and the testers can be observed when interacting with the prototype to identify possible weaknesses. The collected feedback can also be implemented immediately by rapid prototyping and the optimized prototype can be retested.

Compared to the production of a real product, rapid prototyping is much faster and more resource-saving. This will make it possible to produce and test prototypes in one day. The optimizations are also implemented quickly and can be tested again without a long time delay.
The real models also promote employee engagement and motivation. When abstract concepts quickly become tangible and functioning prototypes, this motivates testing, optimizing and developing and spurs further innovations.

Rapid prototyping also reveals weaknesses in the concept without serious consequences. If the produced prototype does not arrive well or does not work as planned, much can be learned from it and an optimized prototype can be easily and quickly produced with the findings. Investments are within a manageable framework and are much lower than if the final product had already been produced. This promotes your company’s error culture and simplifies the trial and error process. Rapid prototyping therefore offers you numerous advantages.

How is Rapid Prototyping used and for whom is it suitable?

To apply rapid prototyping, three-dimensional design data must be available in digital form. These can be processed by special systems for rapid prototyping via a corresponding interface.

The implementation of rapid prototyping ideally takes place at a 24-hour rhythm. During the working day, the model is designed or optimized and at night it goes into 3D printing. The following morning, the 3D printer is cleaned and the model tested. Then the cycle starts from the beginning until the optimal version of the product is found.

Rapid prototyping is a good and efficient solution for designers, product developers, R&D departments and engineers. The costs of 3D printing are manageable nowadays and can therefore be a good solution for small businesses. In most cases, it is much cheaper to make a prototype than to invest in tools, machines and materials for the production of an “original”.

Traditionally, rapid prototyping is used for prototypes that require high complexity. This is the case, for example, in architecture, the automotive, aerospace and aerospace industries, mechanical engineering and health.

A high-precision prototype can also be convincing for start-ups looking for investors and pitching with financiers. Of course, despite the lower cost of producing an original, there are still expenses for rapid prototyping that exceeds those of on-screen visualizations or elemental crafts. That’s why it’s worth thinking carefully about how precise the prototype should be. If a rough model is sufficient, other techniques can also be used. However, if a high-precision prototype is required, rapid prototyping is excellent.

Conclusion

The prototypes produced by CAD data are definitely better than on-screen visualization and high-precision. Even the different materials can be displayed in a fairly detailed way by 3D printing. When it comes to trying out a concept and conducting tests, rapid prototyping is unbeatable. The only disadvantage is the still higher costs than when displaying models on the screen or even more rudimentary forms of presentation of a prototype. However, precision quickly compensates for this disadvantage.

In addition, there are no limits to the imagination of rapid prototyping and unusual or innovative products can also be ideally illustrated. Rapid prototyping gives you a significant competitive advantage through cost and time savings, as well as the ability to quickly optimize and test many variants.

The 24-hour work cycle also clearly defines how rapid prototyping is best implemented. This makes it worthwhile to try this procedure if you are confronted with the new development or optimization of a product. You can also use rapid prototyping in your company to promote innovation.

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