Kespry‘s drone, featuring a 3D printed cover prototyped and produced with Shapeways

We know that prototyping can be a lot of work. It’s one thing to have an idea gestating in your mind; it’s another to make it come to life. 3D printing has always been a fantastic way to prototype products, but it’s now more accessible than ever. It’s no longer just companies like GE and Ford who have access to fast, low-cost, production-quality 3D prototyping. If you’re ready to start prototyping your idea, but unsure where to begin, consider these five ways that 3D printing is transforming and advancing the process — for everyone.

It’s Quick and Precise

Traditional prototyping involved working with handmade models. You could spend days or weeks creating a small-scale prototype, only to find that the proportions were inexact, and didn’t meet the testing demands of the final product. Even if you had a personal 3D printer, you would be limited by geometry and material strength. With Shapeways, your prototype is as precise as the 3D model it’s printed from, whether it contains interlocking parts, complex geometries, or experimental features. And you can have that ultra-precise prototype in your hands in days — in one of dozens of high-performance advanced materials, from extremely strong (but flexible) nylon plastic to 3D printed steel.

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It’s Affordable

We know that affordability is a big concern when it comes to prototyping. Although you’ve probably had many innovative ideas surface over the years, the cost of traditional prototyping (or even the price of buying your own 3D printer) may have prevented you from taking the next step and prototyping your design. But now, you can print one-off designs without investing real money into the prototyping step, so you have more to invest in your business. And, with Shapeways’ industrial-quality 3D printing materials, your final prototype could be the same model you bring to market, with Shapeways as a manufacturing partner — all without investing anything in tooling, inventory, or large manufacturing runs.

You Can Do More

To truly test a product, you have to be able to prototype it in materials that will meet the demands of final use. Shapeways’ prototyping materials are a perfect combination of strong and affordable, so you don’t have to skimp on a prototype that doesn’t match the final product. Mike St. Martin, for example, who used Shapeways to prototype his game PlingPong in strong & flexible nylon plastic, said, “I was blown away with how tough it was! I kept drop testing it. After a while, I was just throwing it at the floor, but it never broke. I couldn’t believe it! From there, I was confident that Shapeways was the best fit for prototyping our game.”

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Feedback Is Easy

Prototypes are by their very nature works in progress, but getting feedback on insufficient prototypes or having to wait weeks between iterations can make that progress very slow. Not only can 3D printing save you time between iterations, but Shapeways in particular can print high-quality prototypes that will provide meaningful insight into how a final product can work — along with a unique way to both prototype your work and receive feedback. Many designers will offer an item for sale in our marketplace that’s met their own testing, but, they suspect, could be improved with real user feedback — offering designers a valuable step between prototype and production. And when you prototype with Shapeways, you can tap into our community of thousands of other designers who can offer feedback, assistance, and advice.

Prototypes Become Products

If you’re confident in the prototype you’ve developed with Shapeways, there’s no need to find a partner for large runs of the finished product. You can sell the products directly to your customers by opening a free shop, or take advantage of Shapeways for Business, our white-glove service for creators looking for a flexible manufacturing partner (no minimum runs, huzzah!). Because a great prototype shouldn’t go to waste.

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