Five Benefits of 3D Printing for Prototyping
Today’s post is a guest post from Inoventive 3D Solutions, a full service architectural scale model making company.
While it is true that necessity is the mother of invention, every innovation still requires testing to see how well it can respond to a specific need. This process — called prototyping — makes it possible for companies to try out their ideas and see how they perform when applied before mass production and market distribution.
Although there have been other ways to create prototypes in the past, there is one technology that helped speed up this initial process of innovative conception: 3D printing.
This technology has become quite popular these days. Serving as effective architectural model makers, 3D printers prove to be adept in bringing ideas to life. In fact, major companies have been using 3D printing for some time to refine their products.
As printers became more affordable, more and more small businesses are able to use 3D printing to make their own prototypes. If you still haven’t, then your business might be missing out on the following five benefits of 3D printing for prototyping:
When it comes to small applications and production runs, 3D printing provides the most cost-effective solution for companies to test out their concepts and ideas.
While traditional methods like injection molding and CNC machining need an entire fleet of expensive machinery, 3D printing only requires one- or two-piece equipment that is far less bulky and more cost-efficient.
With this technology, you also get to reduce labor costs because there won’t be any need for a lot of highly experienced technicians and machine operators to run a 3D printer. In fact, you may only need a handful of people for 3D printing, depending on the system you’re using.
But that’s not the best part. In 3D printing, you also reduce waste materials during the production of a prototype since it would be built from scratch and not carved out or molded from a bigger mass of your chosen material.
2. Flexibility in the Choice of Material
What good is owning a prototyping machine if it limits you to a single type of plastic? With 3D printers, you get to choose different types of
filaments to build your prototypes, supporting a better invention testing experience.
Although plastic is what most 3D printers use to build objects, the material selection has expanded exponentially since the technology was introduced. In fact, plastic materials and filaments come in plenty of different varieties today, including:
- Polylactic Acid or PLA – Most affordable and easiest to print
- Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene or ABS – Often used for printing easily finished and hard objects
- Polyvinyl Alcohol or PVA – Biodegradable and water-soluble plastic
- Polyethylene Terephthalate or PET – Colorless and crystal-clear filament that can be molded after being printed by applying heat
- Nylon – Perfect for durable yet flexible parts or objects
Besides plastic, some 3D printers can also use wood, sandstone, metal, and even magnetic materials. With these choices, creators can test their inventions on different materials without the need for different pieces of equipment. This supports experimentation and trial-and-error, ultimately leading to great inventions.
3. Versatility of Use
Although 3D models are more commonly used in architecture and other design-related industries, the truth is that 3D printers can virtually create anything. What used to be science fiction is now a widely accepted fact – that anything can be printed, as long as it is within a printer’s build volume and scale, of course.
This is why 3D printing service providers, like Inoventive 3D, are very similar to a shopping mall – they bring everything you need together in one place.
With traditional manufacturing processes, every new part or change that must be implemented requires a new mold, die, tool, or jig. But in 3D printing, you only need to feed the design to a slicer software, with all the necessary supports included, and you’re good to go.
Again, no need for a change in hardware.
With 3D printing, you can also create shapes and geometries that traditional methods cannot produce. These include objects with parts within parts and hollow cavities within solid components. You also have the freedom to input a texture, color, and even mechanical property in your design and have the output printed exactly as you designed it.
4. Rapid Testing and Changing Support
Besides the basic costing and versatility in use and materials, 3D printing also allows a quick turnaround time for prototypes.
Remember that initial designs typically have faults that need to be addressed. This is normal – that is what prototyping is all about, after all.
However, what many business owners commonly face with traditional prototype manufacturing methods are the expensive delays in between prototypes. Considering the number of times that changes need to be made, you need a prototyping solution that can keep up.
Fortunately, 3D printing is made for rapid testing and changing compared to the per-part production time from injection molding and other traditional manufacturing techniques.
In most cases, the latter requires several weeks of lead time to produce what is requested, plus shipping time. With 3D printing, you can get your changes implemented on-demand, depending on the provider and system you use.
5. Applicable to Both Concept Models and Functional Prototypes
For the uninitiated, concept models and functional prototypes differ in how they are used. While concept models only show what an invention would look like, functional prototypes aim to demonstrate how it can be used.
For concept models, 3D printing offers even more words than the thousand you get to express with a single picture. By holding, touching, and moving a prototype around, business owners would be able to discern any potential improvements that can still be made.
This is even more important for functional models. These prototypes are meant to verify the usefulness of an invention and test out different materials and features to develop a product that would solve an issue that consumers face, and respond accurately to the resulting necessity.
Test Your Ideas Quickly and Efficiently
Many businesses that wish to quickly move their products in the market turn to 3D printing for a quick and efficient prototyping process. Make sure that you have a good grasp of what you’re getting with 3D printing services.
If you haven’t already, consider 3D printing technology as a tool for your business growth that allows you to test your ideas efficiently.
Tiago Jeronimo is the Marketing Manager at Inoventive 3D Solutions, a full-service architectural scale model making company. Beginning with 2D and 3D architectural drawings, the company incorporates state-of-the-art SLA 3D printing to best construct your design. Inoventive 3D specializes in architectural models, including towers, corporate campuses, sites and educational models. They also specialize in stadiums, full-fledged city models and industrial models for trade shows.
3D printing works well for creating prototypes designed to gain an understanding of form and function of a product. In some cases, 3D prints can also serve as functional prototypes.
For making prototypes from metal, wood, ceramics, or other materials that are either too expensive or impossible to use on 3D printers, CNC machining is another computer-driven prototyping tool that can serve as an alternative to 3D printing.