Tag Archives: prototyping

Benefits of Rapid Prototyping

Rapid Prototyping is a term used to describe many manufacturing processes that are able to quickly convert 3D CAD models into physical parts. Some of the technologies used in rapid prototyping are stereolithography (SLA), CNC machining, urethane casting and quick-turn tooled injection molding. Many of these rapid prototyping processes produce parts that are at or near production quality, which can be very beneficial at many points during product development.

The greatest benefit of rapid prototyping is the ability to test various part concepts quickly. Even the best engineers and designers are regularly surprised by what can be learned by evaluating and testing a representative part. Details that may not be apparent on a CAD system or on paper will show up readily in a rapid prototype. This eliminates costly mistakes, improves the quality of the design, and allows more valuable iteration cycles of concept to prototype.

Rapid prototyping is often a very low cost option for constructing prototypes, especially when the cost of the time to manufacture a prototype using more traditional methods or waiting for first tooled pieces is factored in. While the cost for rapid prototype parts is almost always higher than production parts, tooling outlays are minimal. When it is time to move to production tooling, rapid prototyping will likely have minimized mistakes that would otherwise have resulted in costly tooling revisions or remakes.

Rapid prototyping also provides the opportunity to conduct market studies with prototypes that have a realistic look and feel. Gaining early data on how the market accepts or reacts to the product is valuable information which can be used to improve the design and ultimately increase sales.

Product development is often very sequential, but rapid prototyping places efforts in parallel. Once a design has been completed, rapid prototyping can be used to push a product to market quickly capitalizing on any window of opportunity while long lead-time tooling is underway. This yields greater control over a product’s launch and early market adoption.

Rapid prototyping should be an integral part of almost any modern manufacturing organization’s new or sustaining product plan. The benefits of speeding iteration, improving design quality, lowering costs, providing a tool to evaluate the market, and going to market quickly provide more efficient development cycles which will result in better products with better profits and revenues.

Why Is Prototyping Important?

Whatever the item a person or a company intends to produce, creating a prototype is a crucial step in the design process that cannot be glossed over. Why is prototyping important? There are several main reasons; testing and evaluating the design, clarifying production issues and costs, selling it to others, as well as making clear any patentable details.

Evaluating and Testing the Design
Unfortunately, ideas and drawings of a design can sometimes be a far cry from the real world in which the product will be used. By creating a prototype it is possible to sit down with a real version of the product and determine which aspects are worthwhile and which parts need to be revised, changed, or discarded. In the process, it may be possible to find glaring omissions that, on paper, weren’t noticeable.

Additionally, creating a prototype will allow the design team to not only evaluate, but also test the product before going into full production. Imagine ordering tens of thousands of units, only to discover one part isn’t as strong as it needs to be. If corporate giants can make mistakes, it is all the more important for smaller companies to not forget the importance of prototyping before beginning production.

Clarifying Production Costs and Issues
Once production begins, it is costly and time consuming to make changes. By prototyping before production begins, it is possible to take a glimpse at the production process and see if any steps can be changed, combined, or even removed. This not only streamlines production, but keeps the?cost of the actual production to a minimum. Subsequently, if there are any difficulties in production or perhaps processes that can create problems for the final product, it is much better to see these before production starts. It can also help the design team ascertain the optimal method for production; injection-molding, silicone molds,?stamped metal, etc.

Selling the Product to Others
Just like it is far easier to see if there are any problems with a design by holding an actual working model, it is also far easier to sell to potential customers when they have a prototype to hold and manipulate at a marketing presentation. Without a prototype it’s only a concept. It can be difficult to get a?client to commit to a purchase of a concept. With a prototype in hand, the concept instantly becomes real and it is far easier to sign a purchase order.

The customer needs to be taken into consideration during the prototype phase as well. No matter how great the designers and testers think a prototype may be, real consumers may not like certain aspects of it. If the end customer doesn’t like it, they won’t buy it, which is why focus groups and external testing with prototypes needs to be addressed before production begins.

If a product is new enough or unique enough, patents need to be considered. It’s no use to design and manufacture a great product only to have another company start producing a remarkably similar product because the original company failed to patent key aspects of the design. By having a working prototype, it is much easier to sit down with a patent attorney and see what design aspect may be patentable. On the reverse side, it is possible to see what parts of the prototype and design violate patents of other individuals and how they can be changed before production, and the chance of a lawsuit, begins.

Contact Schmit Prototypes today and get a high quality prototype fast! 715 235-8474.

Benefits of Stereolithography

Stereolithography (SLA) is an additive process that uses a vat of liquid UV-curable photopolymer resin and a computer controlled UV laser to build parts one thin layer at a time. The UV laser cures, or, solidifies the part layer and adheres it to each additional layer.

After each layer has been cured, the SLA machine lowers the platform by a single layer thickness, typically 0.002″ to 0.006″. A resin filled sweeper blade then moves across the cured layer recoating it with another layer of uncured resin. Each layer is cured by the laser, curing it and adhering it to the previous layer. This process repeats until the 3-D part is completed. Once complete, the SLA machine raises the platform from the vat of resin and the part can be removed, cleaned and final cured in a UV “oven”.

One advantage of stereolithography is that a functional part can be built in a relatively short period of time. The amount of time required depends on the size, complexity and layer thickness the part will be built with. Parts can take anywhere from a few short hours to a day or more. Parts built with an SLA machine can be used as master patterns for RTV molding, finished and painted or simply lightly sanded and may be used for shape studies or final presentation models.

The Stereolithography process can help you decrease costly mistakes by detecting design flaws before the manufacturing process. It can be a cost-effective option for low-volume production and also provides quick lead times.

To learn more, check out this great resource for Stereolithography.