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 project.
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 business.
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 assembly.
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.