3D CAD is a major design tool these days and with animation and photorealistic renders a good tool in filtering through different concept ideas. For new design ideas a “proof of concept” and therefore a prototype is close to a must-have, as the consequences of not having one could end up being a commercial disaster.
These days most designs are carried out in 3D CAD packages like Solidworks, which closely integrate with the 3D printing process. The result of this is that prices are dropping due to the reduces labour costs, compared to the “model making” of the previous era.
A prototype is not always required, it depends on what you would like to achieve and if it is commercially viable.
The main advantages of a prototype are:
- prove of the mechanical concept for function, tolerancing and structural integrity – could save a lot of money if the part does not work and one has mistakenly invested into the tooling for manufacture
- handling the prototype gives a full idea of the form, proportions, ergonomics and visual aspect etc. – the part might be awkward to grip…
- an additional marketing/sales tool compared to graphics alone. Prototypes can be printed in colour or painted to get a “pre-production” finish – this might be able to generate an investment for a full production run
There are different methods of 3D printing which should be chosen according to the requirements of the prototype. Please see our post regarding “Choosing your prototype (3D Printing) method.