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How 3D Printing Revolutionized Prototyping

3D Printed Helmet Prototype

How 3D Printing Revolutionized Prototyping

5 Reasons 3D Printing Is Essential For Rapid Prototyping

Thomas Edison failed more than 1,000 times when trying to create the light bulb; when asked about it, Edison allegedly said, “I have not failed 1,000 times.  I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”

In 1879, creating prototypes was much more difficult task than it is now, yet, Thomas Edison still went to the effort of creating hundreds of prototypes to test his inventions. Now, with modern advancements in rapid prototyping, it has become increasingly both more affordable and more accessible to create your first tangible working prototype.

Below are 5 reasons why creating a tangible physical prototype is crucial part of any product development process

1. Make Mistakes Early

3D printing simplifies manufacturing, allowing us iterate faster than ever before. It is a tool for people who love to make mistakes and embrace them as the natural, productive, and highly potent opportunities that they are. The more mistakes we make, the faster we learn and the closer we get to our final goal. Unfortunately, mistakes made with traditional manufacturing processes can be extremely expensive due to the much higher setup costs required for tooling. While these processes are still excellent for larger production runs, they must be manufactured in quantity to justify their costs. In contrast, a 3D printed prototype can allow you test not only your fit with a negligible setup cost. This allows you to make a number of design iterations quickly to develop the best end product and ensure the best fit and function prior to investing in tooling or molds.

3. Reduce Time To Market

3D Printed Prototypes decreases development time by providing engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and purchasing a look at the product early in the design process. This allows each phase in the pipeline to be better prepared for the final product and any obstacles to be overcome earlier in the pipeline. For example: packaging can be designed and tested earlier, marketing can prepare product displays, and purchasing can begin to collect orders all the while the part is still being produced overseas.

2. Collect Objective Opinions

We are all guilty of getting caught up in our own imaginations and failing to see another’s perspective. This routinely happens when someone invests a significant amount of time, energy and capital some particular idea or project that it becomes too difficult to accept that the idea just not going to work.  Failure to be recognize when the drawbacks outweigh the benefits of is known as the sunk cost fallacy. This effect becomes even more powerful the more time, money a person invests in an idea, making harder it is to give up  it. 

Prototypes help you get your design into the hands of as many people as possible in order to explore all the market possibilities. When people can quickly analyze and see your idea it provides a higher probability that they’ll respond more effectively. The feedback you receive may be enough to persuade you to go back and rework your idea early on, saving you from going too far off the deep end.

4. Raise Capital Early

Prototypes are also a useful tool for generating interest and investment in your idea, allowing people to quickly and conveniently see your idea in order to provides a higher probability that they’ll respond more effectively and objectively. Prototypes work to demonstrate the feasibility of your idea and thereby encourage investment as investors can see it in action and better understand the value of the product. Investors often want to see a physical sample of the product before they are willing to open their wallets. Having a quality prototype and a video of the design in action helps lower the perceived risk of investment and therefore increases the probability that your idea will be funded. This can be especially true when communicating ideas with non-technical minded people since wireframes or low-fidelity prototypes could lead to confusion and/or fail to define the scope of the design adequately.

5. Test Your Product

Design validation for both fit and function is perhaps the most common use reason to create a prototype. Physical porotypes ensure each different part of your assembly fits and interacts harmoniously in the real world. Many consumer products go through rigorous testing before they hit the market, despite this, we hear about products getting recalled or not living up to expectations all of time. The more people of different age, demographics that can try your prototype, the higher chance you will uncover design flaws earlier on before your product is launched.