How to Use 3D Printing to Create a Product Prototype
One of the many steps that go into product development is the creation of the prototype. A product prototype is a preliminary model of something, such as a machine. While it doesn't have to completely represent the finished product, it does have to give an idea of how a product will look and function.
The main problem inventors face is actually creating the prototype. In many cases, it takes a good amount of time to make it. They also have to procure the right materials, since the prototype should be representative of the final item.
3D printing is a newer option when it comes to product prototyping. It's a useful way to reduce costs and time spent. Here's how to get started.
What Is 3D Prototyping?
3D prototyping is a type of rapid prototyping intended to quickly manufacture a design and make small changes throughout the process. This type requires a 3D printer, which uses certain materials to print a three-dimensional digital model into real life.
After you've designed a model on your computer, the printer uses a filament or resin to render it layer by layer. Most 3D printers print in a single colour, but there are some machines that can do colour mixing.
If your design requires multiple moving pieces, you can print each one and assemble the product afterwards.
How to Create a Product Prototype
Making a product prototype is one of the first steps of product development. In order to make a prototype, though, you'll need to start with an idea.
Create a detailed diagram or sketch of your potential product. A design sketch shows how the product will appear at the end, while a technical sketch shows its dimensions, materials, and how it operates.
Next, create a 3D model on your computer. This model can be shared with investors or partners, and it'll also be used as a blueprint for the 3D printer to make a physical copy.
The printed model of your product counts as your proof of concept. However, more complex products may require some assembly after printing.
Benefits of 3D Printing for Product Development
Any business or artist would benefit from investing in some kind of 3D printing hardware.
Early-stage prototype concepts can be built in a matter of hours on your computer or even in sketches. However, it can take weeks to bring them fully to life.
For a physical prototype, you would normally need materials, building expertise, and the time to put it all together. In some cases, you'd have to multiply that time if you plan on making more than one model.
Depending on the size of your prototype and its various pieces, it could take as little as a day to a week to print it out. For example, a prosthetic hand takes roughly 14 hours to create, while a small figurine could take just a couple of hours.
Even if your prototype requires a lot of smaller pieces that have to be manually put together, you'd still save on the costs of procuring materials. As long as you have extra filament or resin, you can make multiple copies without needing to order more materials from different suppliers.
Ways to Utilize a 3D Product Prototype
Creating a rapid prototype isn't just about getting your product out there faster. Utilizing a 3D printer and its software can help you improve your product design and development in many different ways.
Prototypes were always used as a way to test whether a design works or not. Nowadays, there is so much more flexibility when it comes to design as a result of 3D software. You can edit, update, and visualize a 3D model long before it even becomes a real object.
Overcome Design and Manufacturing Difficulties
Before the invention of 3D printing, prototypes were rarely made with the same materials or capabilities as the finished product. The lack of quality meant that it was more difficult to accurately design and test it.
Nowadays, you can design and test the physics of an object in the same engine it's rendered in. When you finally make the 3D prototype, you'll know whether or not the finished product will look and work as intended.
Provide Manufacturing as a Service
The ability to create a prototype using a 3D printer means certain artists can also make finished products. For example, someone who makes and paints figurines will find a 3D printer very handy for their business.
There have also been huge investments in 3D printing by start-up companies as the market has grown. An increasing number of investments have been made in tooling and short-run production. It's worth looking into in addition to making prototypes.
3D Printing Options
Before diving deep into 3D printing, your company has to decide on the type of printer and the materials it'll use.
High-quality 3D printers are priced accordingly. Desktop printers are more affordable but can only create models up to a certain size. Industrial-sized options will cost much more but have a larger build volume.
Although PLA and ABS are two of the most common plastics used in 3D printing, they're not the only options. Resin printing comes in standard, grey, clear, flexible, and more. You can also 3D print with stainless steel and ceramic.
Not all printers can use any type of material, and not every material is right for every project.
Invest in the Future of Product Design
Every company that focuses on product design will find some way to benefit from investing in 3D printers and software. It lets you make a product prototype more efficiently and more affordably. You can also adjust the prototype and make a new one with ease.
JaQuba3D Online Store stocks resin and FDM printers, filaments, scanners, and more. Check out our stock online or contact us to learn more.