When you use rapid prototyping and manufacturing in your product development, you speed up overall development to get your products through final production and into the market place.
Today's prototype manufacturing allows you to turn out replicas that are much closer to final product than ever before. There's something about holding a model that moves a product beyond the abstraction of a CAD screen, both for you and your customers.
When you incorporate rapid prototyping into your development process, you can make adjustments more accurately, since you can fit the model into the rest of the project.
You can determine which variations to an existing product work best by quickly generating multiple versions that look or work very much like the final product. And, you can strengthen the feedback loop between you and your customers, by showing them the prototypes rather then just drawings or rough mock ups.
The business of rapid prototyping allows a lot of flexibility in establishing your production process, from using only engineering consultation to full-scale outsourcing of the entire process, up to and including rapid manufacturing. Determine how much you would need rapid manufacturing service providers by answering these questions:
1. How much of your corporate resources can you allocate to rapid prototyping and manufacturing?
2. How centralized is your process - are you under one roof or do you have multiple sites, and spread apart how far?
3. How much control or security do you need around the process - are you in a highly 'sensitive' industry, or produce high-precision products that require considerable fine tuning before final production?
The best contacts and resources to help you get it done
Take your rapid prototyping business to a pro
Partner with a company that specializes in the prototyping business, especially if the prototype manufacturer is located close to the facility where final manufacture will occur.
Take your prototype manufacturing in-house
To gain more control over your product lifecycles, handle the prototype manufacturing internally by purchasing rapid prototype builder machinery.
I recommend: Stratasys, Inc. has developed a system called Fused Deposition Modeling that manufactures prototype parts in three steps with thermoplastics used in regular production, and requires no special ventilation. Solidscape, Inc. offers equipment that literally fits on your desktop, like a large laser printer, for high-precision products.
Take a turn-key approach to rapid prototyping and manufacturing
If you want to concentrate on in-house design and product marketing, use rapid manufacturing service providers that can handle the whole process, from prototype to final production.
Tips & Tactics
Helpful advice for making the most of this Guide
• Like any business, the business of rapid prototyping continually adapts and adopts technologies, from raw materials development to higher-resolution digital equipment and Internet convergence. As rapid prototyping matures, the industry will grow further into rapid tooling and rapid manufacturing. Partner with companies that have prepared for this expansion.
By John Williams, Business Writing and Research