We have a new toy, an FDM Rapid prototype machine. He’s only a little fella with a limited resolution but has in the last week made what can only be described as a revolution in our design process. In the last few years the rapid prototyper has become cheaper, better quality and more, well, rapid.
Testing a product before tooling for market research or fit and finish make it an invaluable tool saving countless oh-nooooo! moments. But protypes are still a luxury in many cases. Enter the sketch model. A cost effective, quick and mostly accurate model bringing a tactile realism to early stage design. We're using our prototypes as form studies, early concept models to support ideation and give confidence much earlier in the design process.
We have found that it has accelerated the concept process in a similar way the 3D CAD did for the dirty old rotary ink pen, well perhaps that’s overstating it a bit.
We’ve only had our machine for a week and already I can’t imagine our process without it. For our next trick, we are going to use it as a vacuum forming tool taking advantage of the inherent strength of the ABS and the porous nature of the build. Watch this space.
Will we use other methods of prototype such as SLA, SLS or even CNC? Sure we will. It's really a horses for courses situation. A high –res painted model with graphics can win the hearts and minds of even the hardest project manager [not pointing to anyone in particular, but you know who you are!]