Although 3D printing is often discussed as a solution for small-scale manufacturing, the technology can also play an important role in the process of prototyping and refining new products. Large corporations have been using this technology to prototype their products for years, but as the prices of printers have dropped, 3D printing has also become an accessible prototyping tool for smaller businesses. Following are five of the most important advantages of 3D printing in the prototyping process that all business owners should be aware of before they buy a 3D printer.
Fast Turnaround Times
Traditionally, businesses that don't have extensive in-house prototyping resources have had to outsource the creation of their prototypes to third party shops. The problem with this model, however, is the time gap between when a prototype is requested and when it is delivered. Even under ideal circumstances, the turnaround time on a prototype is likely to be at least a week. Businesses that have access to a quality 3D printer, on the other hand, can typically create prototypes from their product designs in 24 hours or less.
Just as 3D printers can help businesses create their prototypes more quickly, they can also reduce the overall cost of the process. The average product prototype costs at least $100, with prices rising steadily from there. Using 3D printing technology, businesses can achieve the same results at a fraction of the cost. For plastic parts that can be printed on a standard FDM 3D printer, the cost can be reduced to as little as $1 or less for the filament that is used.
Smoother Workflows With CAD
One of the great advantages of using additive manufacturing in the prototyping process is the fact that CAD files can be uploaded directly into 3D printer software and read by the machine. The fact that files can be imported easily from a CAD program and used immediately to print parts or products helps businesses save time and eliminates the extra work of programming other machine tools. As CAD software has become more user-friendly and intuitive, this fact has also made prototyping more accessible to business owners without extensive drafting or design experience.
Flexible Material Choices
As the technology has become more widely used by businesses and consumers alike, the selection of 3D printer filament types has expanded dramatically. Today, users can choose from materials that include ABS, PLA, PETG thermoplastic and even nylon. The practical advantage of this selection when it comes to prototyping is that creators can test different materials when making their parts. Since the mechanical properties of a certain filament may be better suited to a specific part or product, the ability to experiment with different materials can be extremely useful. Best of all, the same machine can be used to print the part using each variety of filament the user wishes to try.
Ability to Change and Iterate Rapidly
The product design process rarely ends with the first prototype. Instead, most products go through an extensive process of testing and change before their designs are finalized. 3D printing is one of the best ways for businesses to speed this process up. Because changes can easily be made by updating a product's CAD file and sending the amended file to the printer, 3D printing can be used to create many iterations of a design in a very short time frame. As a result, the process of testing, changing and refining a design that could otherwise take weeks or even months under a more traditional prototyping model can be reduced to a matter of days.
For business owners looking to improve their prototyping process and move new products to market quickly, 3D printing is an essential technology. If you're interested in leveraging the power of 3D printing for your business's next prototype, be sure to check out the lineup of printers available at Digilab. From high-quality printers to the filaments they take, Digilab has the products your business needs to begin prototyping with 3D printing.