Leveraging Rapid Prototyping – from Concept to Final Product

All manufacturing companies have prototyping needs. Whether demonstrating product use, creating a proof of concept model or refining products through iterations, the prototype phase has long played an important role in the path to finished goods. Inevitably, business is unpredictable and prototyping gets you to the end product quicker. Gaining the ability to quickly react and change features can mean the difference between failure and success.

To meet the growing need for businesses to
quickly get to market, regardless of their industries, Shapeways has a wide variety
of materials leveraging industrial 3D printing technology. Selective laser
sintering (SLS) is one of many technologies that are perfect for prototyping.

What is SLS?

SLS is an additive manufacturing (AM) technology that uses a laser to sinter powdered plastic material into a solid structure based on a 3D model. SLS 3D printing has been a popular choice for engineers in product design for decades. It is both low cost and highly productive making it the ideal technology for rapid prototyping.

In the past,
SLS rapid prototyping was limited to a small handful of large high-tech companies.
Shapeways’ unique advances in machinery, materials, and software have revolutionized
SLS making it now accessible to a wider range of businesses. This now enables a
more diverse cross section of companies to access the many advantages industrial
3D printing has to offer!

Developing Product Concepts with Rapid Prototyping

Product changes occur frequently during the
earlier phases of product design. In an ideal situation, designers can take
their time designing and refining new product to meet their company’s needs
while still hitting key metrics such as cost, consumer value and functionality.

It is not uncommon for time to be the most
critical factor during the design phase. The need to have a functioning
prototype in hand quickly (and affordably) often becomes the priority of the

For example, when pitching for new business the
ability to quickly create 3D models of your proposed product concept can be the
difference between a winning pitch and lost business. New client pitches often
occur with little notice or prep time. That is exactly why having access to an industrial
3D printers to design and create a physical model is key.

Prototyping for Product Assembly and Functionality

The benefits of additive manufacturing is not at
all limited to just the concept phase. SLS machines can produce parts that not
only delivered quickly, but are also highly durable; making them ideal to
review assembly and functionality.

As design and parts evolve, quickly creating
iterative design changes to physically evaluate the assembly can reduce the
time getting from concept to final product.

Whether you are working with simple moveable
parts, or more advanced product like robotics and drones, 3D printing provides replicas
of any single piece in a highly durable material. As you test out assembly, the
ability to quickly produce durable 3D samples of newly modified parts gives
companies a huge competitive advantage.

Rapid Prototyping Assists with Final Product Fit and Form

An additional benefit to rapid prototyping is
the benefit it provides in terms of final fit and form. This can be seen across
multiple industry disciplines such as medical diagnostic machines, drones, and robotics.
Assuring a functional part fits within a medical diagnostic machine, such as a
cooling fan, is critical to ensuring the machine works consistently. In
addition, with drones and robotics, combining multiple parts into one by
leveraging 3D printing can make the final product lighter in weight. However,
if the complex geometry of the additive manufactured part doesn’t fit the final
product, the issue of weight is irrelevant.

Additionally, rapid prototyping has other
advantages for product fit. 3D models can be created to physically analyze
final sizing without needing all internal components to be finalized. This is
done by designing a hollowed out “shell” of the products exact form and size to
verify fit. This size replica of your design is ideal for testing fit without
creating a full model. The results are the same, but the speed and benefits are
greatly improved.

Keeping Up with the Speed of Business

The ability to use 3D printing has revolutionized

The innovative SLS process to give any business
the capabilities that were once limited to large high-tech firms. The
advantages of additive manufacturing quickly allows companies to customize
concepts, make changes for assembly, and ensure a perfect fit for final product

Shapeways can partner with you throughout the prototype phase to quickly get your concept to a final product. Understanding the different material characteristics with various 3D printers is what our team takes pride in. To find out more, contact our 3D printing experts and have Shapeways help with your next prototype.

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