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Prototypes test for a myriad of functions, including aesthetics and appearance, hold and feel, operation and mechanical function, electronic function and internal structure. Engineers create prototypes in order to identify and resolve weaknesses before production. Refining the design before production economizes the manufacturing budget.
Creating a prototype begins with the ideation of a concept, called Concept Generation, then the concept is adapted into 3D CAD files, then processed by a 3D printer and assembled.
1. Concept Generation:
Concept Generation begins with ideation – a method of brainstorming that is based on the project requirements and user needs. These initial ideas lead to a series of three, six, or nine concepts represented in sketch form to be considered by the client for final design direction. Throughout this iterative and often circular process, the designer explores design alternatives, eliminates issues, and incorporates client feedback. This process identifies feasible avenues for product development. During the ideation phase, designers consider technology integration and client preferences to transform a broad concept idea to an acute concept design. When a final design is chosen, the concept moves into Phase Two and is adapted into CAD software to be formatted before a 3D model is created.
2. 3D CAD Creation:
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) is a software used by designers to create, adjust and analyze a design for 3D printing. Preparation in CAD is essential to creating a prototype of dimensional precision and accuracy. CAD is an asset to the iterative design process because model dimensions can be quickly altered between printings, keeping production on schedule.
CAD also enables you to create visual models for your product prototype. Your design graphics can be used to present your product to market. Aesthetically pleasing renderings show your finished vision and increase your likelihood of viability on the market.
3. Printed 3D Models:
The third step of creating a prototype is the application of CAD files to the 3D printing process. Due to the rapid production rate of 3D printers, necessary iterations of 3D models can be quickly generated and reviewed by the Industrial Design team, speeding up overall product development. Using a skilled 3D technician and CAD designer ensure a congruent match between CAD files and actual prototype dimensions.
With function and economy in mind, 3D models are printed in a rigid plastic-like or flexible rubber-like material. Printing material is chosen for durability, color and flexion, and determined by scale, appearance and function of the model. Your prototype will be printed on one of two models, based on your unique design specifications. The cost of a 3D printed model is variable, and calculated by time to print, size and intricacy of the design.
Printed models are surrounded by a rubbery, waxen support material. This support material is removed manually, chemically or with heat by a skilled technician. The excavation process can be time consuming, based on the level of formal intricacy of a component. After the excavation stage, the models are finished through washing and drying, before returning to the Industrial Design team for review and refinement. Individualized, scaled printing costs ensure fair pricing.