Faster and cheaper product development with 3D printed prototypes

One of the most common stumbling blocks in product development is the production of prototypes – more specifically, the high cost of prototyping and slow manufacturing process. Prototypes can now be produced much faster and more cost-effectively than before, thanks to 3D printing.

Prototypes are an integral part of product development

Prototyping is an important part of product development. Prototypes make designs more tangible and easier to understand, which facilitates product testing and collecting feedback, for example. What may look like a fully functional solution on a computer screen may prove to be a problem as a prototype.

Consider this: a company wants to manufacture a prototype to support its product development. The alternative using traditional methods would be to first manufacture a mould, for example by machining, and then use the mould to crank out the finished prototype. The cost of making one prototype this way can easily be thousands of euros. What’s more, you have to start the whole process from scratch whenever you want to make changes to the prototype. It’s no wonder making prototypes feels like a cumbersome process.

Making prototypes with 3D printing is much easier. Quite frankly, 3D printing revolutionizes prototyping. Below we have listed the benefits of 3D printed prototypes.

  1. 3D printing speeds up prototype production.
    3D printing prototypes significantly reduces the time needed for the product development process. Several prototype rounds can be made in a very short time. 3D printing can, in fact, produce many prototypes at one go, depending on the size, shape and capacity of the printer. What’s more, the prototypes’ properties can be compared and tested immediately.
  2. The price of a 3D printed prototype won’t empty your pockets.
    3D printing is much more straightforward than making moulds, and it’s a lighter type of production. Eliminating laborious and expensive mould making has a direct impact on price.  The cost of 3D printed prototypes is a fraction of the cost of traditional production methods.Read more about the price of 3D printing in our blog “What does the price of 3D printing comprise?”.
  3. The 3D printed prototype: a ready-to-use end product
    For some people the word “prototype” brings to mind a contraption that barely stays together and is primarily meant to give you the idea of the size or shapes of the finished component/product. This is why the properties of a 3D printed prototype may surprise you. It has all the properties of a component intended for final production. So, if the designs hit the bull’s-eye on the first try and no changes need to be made, the prototype could be used as such. In other words, 3D printed prototypes correspond in quality to the actual component. Companies should therefore really consider making their final components with 3D printing, especially if they produce small series.
  4. The comparability of 3D printed prototypes is exceptional.
    Since 3D printed prototypes are similar in quality to the actual components for production, the functionalities, geometry and, for example, the ergonomics of the finished part are more perceivable. Therefore, you do not have to rely on mere guesses and assumptions; rather, you have access to the right information and real properties.
  5. Benefits of 3D printed prototypes for businesses
    So, what does all this mean from a company’s perspective? Since 3D printing makes it easier and cheaper to make prototypes, several rounds of prototyping can be conducted in product development. This ensures that the physical properties of the component and, for example, compatibility with other components are fit for purpose. Making better components and products is therefore possible.
    3D printing also helps in launching products. It allows you to quickly make prototypes into feasible finished products, for example, in small-scale serial production, which can be launched almost immediately. This means no high initial cost of moulds or high-risk costs related to product failure.

    If the product’s sales volumes increase, you can switch to mould manufacturing, if necessary, without any risks. Consequently, your company does not have to invest large amounts of capital in tools and moulds during product development and the initial stages of sales. Moreover, it is easy to test product ideas with customers and make changes flexibly based on their feedback. You can then, in fact, start selling your product already in the product development stage and finance your operations with 3D printing.

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Could 3D printing enhance your company’s product development? Contact us and we will help you map out the benefits of 3D printing for your business.