3D printing has been around for decades but has gained the most attention within the last five to eight years. The technology is what sci-fi movies are made of—making an object seemingly appear out of thin air. While that isn’t exactly how it works, it has made life easier for inventors all around the world and is making its mark on a range of industries (medical, automotive, and aviation just to name a few). Researchers are finding new and novel ways of using the technology, material selection is rapidly expanding, and a range of businesses are now developing 3D printers.
Today, you can head to any number of business related websites and are bound to stumble across at least one article mentioning 3D printing or it’s impact on the entire manufacturing industry. While we don’t doubt that 3D printing is a revolutionary technology—the fact remains that the technology still has a long way to go before it changes manufacturing as we all know it.
As the technology stands today, its strength, its competitive advantage and its usefulness remain in the realm of prototyping. Visual and functional prototyping are imperative when designing a product and this is where 3D printing really excels.
“When it was invented, 3D printing was referred to as rapid prototyping, a method for automating and reducing the labor required to create a prototype model for design validation. Since then, it has found use in a number of other applications, but the technology is still widely implemented to create visual models and functional prototypes. (Engineering)”
A visual model of your product lets you get a better idea of how the product will look and feel. With the rapid expansion of 3D printing materials and colors available, you have more options than ever when it comes to product design materials. Most hardware entrepreneurs start with a visual model and then move forward with a functional prototype for design validation and testing.
A functional prototype allows you to test the form, fit and functionality of your product. Testing and validating your product design with a functional prototype is highly recommended so that any potential errors can be fixed before heading into manufacturing.
The benefits of a functional prototype extend beyond your design. With a functional prototype you can also gather critical market feedback, rally financial support as well as file for a patent.
A major misstep that can derail any hardware startup is to skip the development of a functional prototype.
There is no doubt that 3D printing is changing the manufacturing landscape and is proving to be a useful tool for makers and professional alike.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.