Short Run and Bridge Manufacturing Services
05 July, 2023
May 24, 2016 at 4:13 am
We get asked fairly often “What is a prototype?”. Here’s an example of a 3D printed prototype for a cigar holder that extinguishes the cigar so it can be smoked again later.
A prototype is a design tool used in the development of a new product, a physical model of what the future product idea will be. Some prototypes are rough drafts, others are trials of the final version. When designing a new product, if an individual wants to make his/her drawing more detailed, a prototype will help substantially, as they will allow you to notice any design flaws that might not be obvious on paper. The central objective of producing prototypes is to question whether or not your product is ready for mass production.
Prototyping is essential to developing new product ideas, since you’re breaking new ground and need to see if your idea will appear and function as intended. Prototypes give you the capacity to ponder over your idea by holding it physically, testing it and then adjusting it as necessary before mass production which is more expensive. Two of the fundamental objectives of prototyping are to permit the engineer to check for defects and to ensure the item is easy to use, safe and fit for purpose. Additionally, it’s useful to have a physical version of your product idea to show potential supporters or investors.
While it’s possible to make your own prototype – a common practice in the olden days of architecture for instance when housing designs were created out of balsa wood – it is much more time efficient and cost effective to use new technologies like 3D printing. These prototypes are created using 3D rendering and 3D printing technology and can be shown to others involved in the product development process or used in your marketing materials in advance of the product being ready for production or market.
Once the 3D CAD file has been created 3D printing software cuts the rendering into hundreds of flat layers. These layers are then transferred through the 3D printer, creating the item layer by layer until you have the 3d printed prototype in its complete form. Modern 3D printing technology prints the item, blending the layers together with scarcely any obvious indication of the layers.
Once you are happy with your prototype you may decide to proceed with mass manufacturing. Then the same CAD file used to prototype your object can be used as the basis for creating molds used for plastic, silicone or foam injection molding. Creating molds is often the most expensive part of the process, for this reason we highly recommend that you prototype your ideas first, in order to find any defects or issues that may need to be resolved. As a result of this type of prototyping JCAD has saved their clients a lot of time and thousands of dollars which would otherwise have been wasted in having to remake molds for item defects that could easily have been picked up if a prototype was created in the first place.
Further reading: An innovative use for prototyping – 3D printed prototype cars!