Rapid prototyping is a dexterous strategy employed in fabricating a model or part. This approach facilitates the creation and testing of 3-D prototypes of features or products to improve characteristics like size, overall usability, and shape.
Prototyping typically validates the hypothesis that the foreseen product will meet the required expectations. It may not be fully functional, but its appearance can draw interested users to test it and provide feedback.
In the case of a negative reaction, the company puts off building a product that will not add value to the world. However, if the feedback is positive, it is evident that the prototype is on the right track, and the development process should commence.
The “rapid” aspect of rapid prototyping represents the speed at which the company can produce the prototypes, how fast they can gather feedback, and the required time they can make subsequent iterations.
Companies ought to create a balance between forging a rapid prototype that resembles the authentic product to obtain genuine feedback and reactions from potential users, but without investing too much time and resources in the prototype, making it difficult to discard.
Exploring rapid prototyping techniques
It is crucial to hide the fact that manufacturers are not interacting with the product to gather bona fide prototype reactions. Once they realize it, they will naturally switch into proactive suggestion mode rather than offering authentic feedback.
This means the prototype should have real images or data that the users can work with, even though it is limited. However, developing a fully functional prototype may sometimes be too expensive or premature. Product managers can avoid this obstacle by creating wireframes to illustrate basic workflow concepts.
They can facilitate actual user testing and efficiently inform product development concerning the necessary features for a functional enough prototype.
Although product teams have no business in the implementation details, a wireframe-based prototype includes the whole product team, shaving some time off the development process.
Rapid prototyping also accommodates the creation of multiple prototypes for simultaneous testing. This approach enables the development team to decide on the superior prototype depending on the feedback.
Traditional subtractive prototyping methods pale compared to additive manufacturing which guarantees unlimited freedom in developing prototypes. Various forms of rapid prototyping include:
Being the first promising technique, SLA was popular for commercial 3D printing. It is inexpensive, fast, and utilizes solidified photosensitive liquid to create a prototype design layerwise. A computer-generated UV light hardens the photosensitive liquid.
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Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)
Being an easy-to-use and cost-efficient process, you can find it in many industrial 3D desktops. The product team melts a spool of thermoplastic filament and layers the resulting liquid to develop a 3D design.
Initially, FDM created weak resolute designs, but with tremendous improvement, it is currently standard for product development.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
SLS is efficient in both metal and plastic prototyping. It uses a laser to heat and sediment powdered substances to create a prototype, but most of its products are not as durable as those developed by stereolithography. The prototype often requires more work before it becomes presentable enough.
This technique enables the product team to create multiple parts at once. Even so, the prototypes are not as strong as those from SLS.
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The essence of understanding rapid prototyping
Rapid prototyping enables product managers to access real-world user feedback without investing precious resources in an unproven idea. Customer feedback concerning the merits and demerits of the product is an invaluable aspect when creating user-inclined products and shortens the marketing time.
By dispensing the prototype to the market and validating assumptions, product teams can develop the final product with confidence that it will be marketable or revise their drawing board in case things go sideways.
Rapid prototyping is undoubtedly time-saving, and with genuine feedback from potential users, product managers can make the necessary adjustments or validate their assumptions. This concept helps create a final product that will add value to the world and not become junk in the market.
Additionally, rapid prototyping enhances communication by involving all the product team members. This creates efficiency in developing a refined final product that customers and prospects will embrace.