Why Rapid Prototyping Saves Engineers
Before any product or piece can be manufactured, it typically has to be designed; usually, some form of blueprint is created. In the modern world we live in, these designs typically take place on a computer. Machinists and manufacturing engineers have to work with this blueprint to create a final product. In some cases, quite a few actually, a prototype is made. This prototype is often somewhat crude, perhaps it is scaled down, and it isn't always 100% detailed like the final product will be, but it is used to give a good idea of what the final piece will look like. I'm sure there have been plenty of cases in which there wasn't enough planning involved and thousands of dollars went down the drain on a project, just because a business was too 'stingy' to create an effective prototype for testing purposes.
This 'planning' phase is where 3D printing comes into play. When an engineering company is hired for tens of thousands of dollars on a giant project, to create a product that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars - a thousand dollar 3D printing job doesn't seem so daunting in order to prepare for the follow through on that project. In fact, many 3D printing jobs cost well under that! Regardless, when an architect has a design mocked up on the computer and wants to present a visual display for his or her client, a 3D printed creation would be perfect! Modeling a landscape by hand wouldn't hold the same level of detail, and the hourly rate of a specialist hand sculpting a piece would likely be more expensive! Also, keep in mind that 3D printing can mock up pieces that are plus or minus less than a millimeter to the actual detail of the design. The detail is amazing.
Not only does this process ensure great testing in many cases, but it also dwarfs the ability of other prototyping methods. This process has other aspects to it as well! 3D printing can be used for marketing purposes on top of testing. Imagine presenting a visualization that would blow your client out of the water. Seeing a printed out sheet of paper with an image on it is cute, but compare that to having a client hold the product in prototype form. This could also be great for engineers selling the idea of certain projects! The power of visualization has a lot of potential when selling and moving product around.
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