The climax of any new product design is actually making the product. In the development phase, this can be scary for a number of reasons. Perhaps you’re undecided between several different features or combinations of geometries, or maybe your manufacturing capital is limited. Manufacturing costs, especially in prototype quantities, can add up quickly. Luckily, a technology has developed over the past decade or so that makes prototyping quick and downright affordable. It’s called rapid prototyping, or just “RP”.
The field of rapid prototyping (or RP) has grown tremendously over the past 10 years. RP is essentially a 3D printing process in which a thin slice of your product (typically between .001″ and .005″ thick) is created, and then another layer on top of that, and then another layer on top of that, and so on until your entire part has been built up. This provides you with a geometrically accurate part that can be handled and evaluated. No matter how many views of the product you see in CAD on the computer screen, actually holding the product in your hands is essential to evaluating its form and function.
There are limitations to RP parts, however. Arguably the biggest limitation is the fact that RP materials are much weaker than production materials such as hard plastic or metals. However, the relative speed (usually a couple of days) and low cost (anywhere from $50 to several hundreds of dollars, usually) are such huge advantages over traditional prototyping methods such as soft tool casting or machining that they outweigh the shortcomings of material strength. Besides, RP parts are not meant for full production uses, but rather as a preliminary step to verify your design is accurate and functions properly.
Pipeline has developed strong relationships with local and out-of-state RP vendors and works with them on a regular basis to provide quick prototype to its customers. Contact us here to discuss your project and how RP technologies can help you quickly validate your design.