One of the prominent challenges that product designers face, is not having the ability to make clients or in-house management staff to realize how the product will look and feel actually. Despite the possible advancements in 3D CAD technologies, explaining design aspects through digital models always ends up with “can you prove-it” question.
MPE recently added a new 3D printer to its engineering toolbox. While 3D printing isn’t new, the advances in technology and filament materials has made it more flexible and affordable.
Here are a few ways our customers benefit from our use of 3D printing during the product development phase.
Drive Innovation –The ability to build prototypes, create physical models, and use inexpensive replicas speed the innovation process in a safe and consequence free setting. Testing ideas quickly and discovering what doesn’t work often leads to an ideal solution. 3D printing allows ideas to develop faster than ever.
Reduce Cost and Time – To ensure the ergonomics and fit of a product are just right, you must actually hold it and use it. With 3D printing, the cost and time required to develop prototypes can be greatly reduced. The same CAD software and the printing equipment can be utilized to produce different geometries. Unlike conventional prototyping methods such as CNC machining, the amount of waste produced is minimal, as rapid prototyping only prints the material that is actually required to build the object. 3D printing allows us to validate components before investing in expensive molding tools.
Mitigate Risk – The 3D printing process offers the ability to identify flaws in the design prior to mass production. The materials available for rapid prototyping closely resemble the properties and strength of the actual product, making it possible to perform physical tests easily. The risks of faults and potential usability issues can be identified earlier to avoid problems that might occur later during manufacturing process.
Improved Communication – Having a physical model in hand which is an exact or very close representation of the finished product eliminates ambiguity. You can get immediate feedback from your customer and incorporate the changes immediately. Prior to finalizing the design, several iterations are generally required. With each iterative process, the design improves further, building confidence for both the designer as well as the end consumer. This also helps in identifying the actual need of the market, making possible to develop competitive products with better acceptance rate.
VOC Feedback – Providing customers with multiple iterations of a design is a cost-effective way to get Voice of Customer (VOC) feedback. 3D parts are extremely close to production parts in both appearance and functionality. This process is an affordable way to “test” your concept at a trade show, get immediate end-user feedback and incorporate those changes into the final design before money has been spent on expensive tooling.
Looking to see what else is new at MPE? Take a look at the addition of our press brake with an automatic tool changer (ATC).