What is Rapid Prototyping and What it Could Do For Your Business

3D printing is still a burgeoning technology, and its potential is only just starting to be unlocked. One of these benefits is the ability to produce test products quickly. This process has come to be known as rapid prototyping. 

Rapid prototyping can be huge for anyone charged with designing and launching a product. To help you see its potential, we ask the question “What is rapid prototyping?” below. 

What Is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is a new phrase. It is the process of creating prototypes in a quick way so that you can visually and functionally analyze a product for engineering purposes. It also allows you to test the product to some extent. 

The prototype is a preliminary version of the end product. You can use it to analyze, check, test, and improve before moving into a larger scale, final production. With the advent of 3d printing and many new technologies, these prototype productions are much more quick and effective. 

This can be at any stage of the product development process. It can be done for any component or subcomponent. Repeat prototypes can be easily manufactured with minor alterations, making them easy to refine.

What Is Meant by Rapid Prototyping?

Prototypes do not need to look and behave exactly as their final product will. As such, a designer may choose the quality of their rapid prototype depending upon their goals for it. These two types of distinct prototypes can be classified as low and high-fidelity prototypes

Low fidelity prototypes have minimal functionality and test concepts. They are a mock-up, to project a final idea. 

High fidelity prototypes are very close to the final product. They will look and behave almost as the intended final outcome. 

Why Is It Important?

In the modern market, new products and developments come thick and fast. In addition, they need to be quality products. The internet has allowed news of inferior products to spread quickly, and anything that is not fully tested can create bad brand awareness. 

As such, to deliver high-quality products quickly, rapid prototyping has become a necessity. There are a few more reasons why it is important.

Firstly, it allows hands-on user experience that can provide valuable feedback about the finished product. Secondly, it can allow functionality tests aligned with the final objective. Thirdly, it allows the final stage of a product to be verified against the company objectives and technical requirements. 

Factors to Consider

When undertaking a rapid prototype, you must give thought to a number of functions. This will help you determine the outcome and process of your prototype. 

First, consider the purpose of the prototype. Will it need moving parts or will it be a static part? Then look at quality, and decide if it can be low fidelity, or are you at the stage where it needs to be a high fidelity prototype?

Next, consider the quantity. How many of these do you need to make? This will be determined by how many prototypes you need, and how many of these parts are in each one. 

Then, consider the complexity of the parts. Will they require lots of intricate detail and moving sections? These could add to the time and cost to create.

Conceptual and Embodiment

Conceptual and embodiment are two larger parts of the prototype process that you must take into account. The first, conceptual, is where parts and assemblies need to be scaled up. You may also need limited functionality and, perhaps, some forms of the user interface. 

Embodiment is the phase at which form, fit, and function need to be explored. At this point, the prototype will be almost a fully-functional unit of components and will require high levels of detail. You will also need more than one prototype at this stage for rigorous testing, analysis, and feedback. 

Is It the Same as 3D Printing?

The two are different, though often confused as the same thing. This is because 3D printing was the first method of quickly producing rapid prototypes. However, it has now grown to include a number of other methods, and 3D printing is just one facet.

3D printing and similar additive manufacturing are the processes of building the prototype. The prototype is the end product itself. In addition, 3D printing itself could be combined with any number of other methods in the rapid prototyping process. 

Advantages

Rapid prototyping allows you to test ergonomics and human use factors on a product. They are also great for rapid feedback and adjustment during functionality testing. They can also reduce product development costs and risks involved in designing a new product. 

The disadvantages are that some key features may not be possible to rapid prototype, particularly overly complex parts. The range of material they can be made in is also limited, meaning strength and finish may not match the overall product. Some techniques are also still expensive and may require additional costs at the start of production. 

Starting the Process

Now you can answer the question “What is rapid prototyping?” all you need to do is begin finding a company that can help. Look for a firm that offers a range of prototyping options then contact them with your wishes and ask for a quote. 

We have a range of additive manufacturing processes that can assist you in building rapid prototypes. We have a qualified, experienced team who are waiting to help your project. Call us today for a free quote and get started on your next venture!