In the past, when creating a prototype, tooling and jigs had to be designed and machined first. When multiple iterations were needed, development became tedious and laborious. The development and improvement of 3D printing, or the additive process of building up an object layer by layer, turned a new page in manufacturing. The change came slowly at first but has accelerated over the past few years.
Emerging 3D Printing and Prototyping Technologies
3D printing has many applications for prototyping consumer products. Take the devices and appliances primarily constructed of plastic that you use every day for example. Many are made by a process known as injection molding. Through the latest advances in 3D printers, prototypes can be manufactured to production model standards, ready to be evaluated by potential customers.
Why Use 3D Printing to Prototype Products?
The software controlling 3D printers allows rapid implementation of improvements to design, allowing product developers to easily create multiple iterations of prototypes. Once the final configuration is approved, manufacturing can begin almost immediately. 3D printing reduces development costs and shortens the time required for a product to enter the marketplace.
Innovations in 3D Printing Materials for Product Prototyping
A significant development in 3D printing has been the innovation in materials. New materials are much more robust than those used in the past with stereolithography (the 3D printing process that uses focused light to cure a resin).
For example, GE has used Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) for the printing of fuel nozzles to be used in LEAP jet engines. The printing process produced assemblies in a single run, which would have previously required 20 separate components. Given the potential return, it is easy to understand why companies like Boeing and Ford are willing to invest in 3D printing.
In an exciting development, MIT researchers have created 3D-printable graphene. By its nature, graphene is extremely thin. Built up in layers, it can form structures that, while much lighter than steel, are ten times stronger. The manufacturing of aircraft and cars with graphene constituents could lead to vehicles with both lower fuel consumption and higher structural integrity.
Need Help Creating a Prototype With 3D Printing?
Even with the employment of a prototyping process as innovative and versatile as 3D printing, developing and launching a product can be daunting. With everything from product development to crowdfunding to ecommerce under one roof, we can help you transform your concept into reality. Contact us for a quote or for more information on how we can assist in bringing your project to fruition.