Bringing a product to market is a massive undertaking. There’s a lot to consider from defining the initial product concepts to shipping the final product to the customer. At E4D Technologies, we know what it takes to bring the product you’ve imagined to life. As a contract manufacturing partner, we can offer expertise every step of the way. In the beginning stages of product development, the focus is always on prototyping and testing. There are many different rapid prototyping technologies, and the best choice depends on your product and your needs:
What Is Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid prototyping is the quick production of a physical part using 3D computer-aided design (CAD) coupled with manufacturing technologies that don’t have the delays of custom tooling or the limitations of machining. Whether you’re thinking of a product’s enclosure or an internal part, when the finished prototype closely matches the proposed design of the part for the product, it’s said to be a quick or rapid prototype instead of a tooled or machined.
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing isn’t the only way to prototype a part for a product but can be the least expensive and quickest. Other processes include subtractive manufacturing, injection molding, and compression molding. Subtractive manufacturing is when blocks of materials are milled or carved to remove the excess and produce the desired shape. In contrast, injection molding and compression molding are processes where a liquid or semi-solid material is forced into a shape before going through a solidifying process. These processes are typically more costly and take additional time to get the initial parts which makes them not as desirable for rapid prototyping.
How 3D Printing Can Be Used for Prototyping
People have become obsessed with 3D printing because of how quickly it can produce prototypes as well as manufacturing assembly fixtures. It is a more cost-effective solution for fixtures or prototyping in a low volume than some of the alternatives like injection molding, compression molding or subtractive manufacturing. One advantage of 3D printing is that you don’t need to buy an expensive mold or compromise the design so that it can be milled to make the prototype, allowing you to create things that are difficult to produce based on cost and capability factors. But the most significant advantage is how quickly 3D printing can produce a new iteration of a concept or an idea. It may take 2-3 weeks to make a machined or molded prototype, but with 3D printing, new adjustments can be produced within a day or two (depending on the complexity of the prototype).
When it comes to prototyping a product, 3D printing allows you to quickly create intricate designs for a relatively cost-effective price. How cost-effective it is to prototype with 3D printing depends on the complexity of the product. At E4D Technologies, we use our engineering and 3D printing capabilities in house to iterate product improvements. Our engineering and design teams can iterate through the design possibilities and work through the solutions physically with these prototypes in days when machining or casting the same pieces might have taken weeks.
Rapid Prototyping from a Manufacturing Perspective
Our team is certified in lean manufacturing principles, which focus on eliminating waste while maximizing production speed and quality. With this in mind, our design and engineering teams are constantly questioning what tool or fixture might make the assembly process faster, more efficient and more easily repeatable. We utilize 3D printing internally to create new tooling fixtures to use in our manufacturing processes. For example, this is a solution for creating something unique that is perfectly designed to hold a piece in place while you work on assembly. We find this incredibly useful when it comes to optimizing a manufacturing process over time.
Check out our video below to see research and design in action:
What Is the Solution for Prototyping the Perfect Product?
The short answer is that there is no single solution for prototyping every type of product. Many factors go into prototyping, such as cost, complexity and turnaround time. When you’re looking for the ideal contract manufacturing partner, you need to consider if your needs match their capabilities. Subtractive manufacturing and additive manufacturing both have their advantages and disadvantages, and the right contract manufacturer should be able to determine which method you need to produce your perfect prototype.
Whether you’re looking for a new design partner or you aren’t sure where to start, E4D Technologies is here to help. Our team works together, under one roof, with unique specialties that cover all major technological disciplines. We have the experience you need to design, develop and manufacture your perfect product to bring to markets worldwide.
Contact us today to learn more about what E4D Technologies can do for your business.
Photo Sourced from E4D Technologies