How To Implement 3D Printers Within The Prototyping Process

Prototyping has traditionally been one of the more time consuming and frustrating steps in the product development process for all startups dedicated to creating tangible products.  That is mostly due to the fact that by their very nature, numerous products require highly specialized and expensive equipment to manufacture them.   For small companies without a lot of initial capital, this equipment is not affordable to them.  This can devolve into a chicken and egg scenario rather quickly: the company will have a tough time obtaining sufficient funding for producing the product in a factory without a prototype.  However, without a factory, it is difficult to accurately construct a prototype.

Fortunately, over the past few years cutting edge technology has been developed that has revolutionized this prototyping process dramatically.  The 3D printer makes it possible for companies of all sizes to make components using a 3D model of whatever form desired for just pennies on the dollar. That makes rapid product development possible and numerous product iterations can be tested within the early stages of the design process.

Plastic forms are produced by 3D printers through a computer-aided, additive process.  First a 3 dimension model of the desired form is created by the designer to ensure that it is possible to form the shape from the bottom up without there being any overhang.  Next the design gets submitted to the program regulating the actions of the printer and get parsed in a "map" that indicates how the printer head will be moving to create the model.  A plastic filament then starts to be extruded by the printer head and lays down the material into the shape that is desired.  The printer works in layers or slices, and makes shapes of all of the model's cross sections, on top of one another.  This is a quick process and needs very little human oversight, which makes it both an efficient and simple process.

The technology is actually quite affordable, with the least expensive printer models retailing for approximately one thousand dollars.  For the prototyping process this can make a significant difference.  The greatest advantage that the device offers is being able to see a design's physical version during the very early stages, which makes it possible for the creator to notice any flaws and areas of improvement immediately.  This ability to create components quickly also encourages creators to try out innovative prototypes, rather than going with the design that is most obviously feasible.  With the prototyping process not being dependent on fabrication being outsourced to factories any longer, it means that the practice isn't hindered any longer by needing to wait for other parties to cooperate, who might not be as conscious of time or who may be overseas. 

In summary, makerbot technology has the potential to be an incredible helpful to getting a product from the design stage to manufacturing more quickly than ever before.  Replicators make it possible for even small companies without a lot of employees, small office space, limited funds and low access to construction tools to be able to test their product designs out, to ensure they are perfect prior to them being approved for production.  In that sense, they can be a very smart investment and excellent way to improve your company's innovative abilities and efficiency.