Rapid prototyping is a method of fabricating a prototype using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Industrial 3D printers (as opposed to the models that are more and more common in households) have the capacity of printing in plastic, metal, and a multitude of different materials. This means that businesses can quickly create a functional prototype for testing purposes, and they can present it to investors to get backing before moving onto large-scale molding or die cutting.
One Small Step
There are a lot of steps that take place between the concept stage and the mass-production stage, and creating a prototype is one of those steps. In the past all of the parts and pieces would need to be specially made, and a business could expend a huge amount of time, effort, and money just to make a single prototype (since the initial design might have bugs that need to be worked out). If the initial prototype wasn’t up to snuff then the whole process would have to start over once again, and that could get costly in terms of both time and money.
3D printers save on both of these areas.
Creating a computer-aided draft of an item can be time-consuming, but turning that design into a reality via a 3D printer can take between minutes and hours. This saves a huge amount of time over the days and weeks it would take to craft a working prototype by hand, and the more times the prototype has to go back to the drawing board the more time and money using the 3D printer will save.
The Wave of The Future
3D printers have been fully embraced by big industries for the amount of money and time they can knock off the construction and prototyping process, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. As the technology grows more and more affordable it’s even likely that 3D printing might replace a number of more traditional manufacturing processes.