Why You Should be Incorporating 3D Printing Into Your Product Development Cycle

Additive manufacturing can dramatically reduce costs during the product prototype development process by facilitating better designs, faster prototyping and scalable production. However, during each phase of the development cycle there are some important concepts to keep in mind when incorporating 3D Printing into your new product development cycle.

Design for Additive Manufacturing

The first concept is designing for additive manufacturability. Oftentimes, simply using the CAD model of an existing part is unsuccessful or inefficient when 3D printed. Design concepts such as the type of additive process, the material, the parameters of the machine, the post-processing needs and the essential properties/functions of the part must be taken into account at the very beginning in order to fully utilize all of the benefits of additive manufacturing. For example, AM can allow you to combine parts in a complex system, which can have several benefits including: eliminating possible failure points at joints, reducing the number of suppliers, and reducing the design hours needed. The end result is a single unique shape that better serves the required functions of the system.

Concept Modeling

After the optimized AM design is created, it is time to test out the product. Key observations can be made at this stage regarding the form, fit, function and manufacturability of the part. The design can be tested on the machine at different build orientations. These tests are often done with a strong, but cost efficient and easy-to-print material, such as PLA. The concept model can prove that the part, as designed, is able to be 3D printed without warping or failing, as well as provide a physical object to test and study while developing and tweaking the product during the new product prototype development process.

Functional Prototyping

Once the new product’s design is created, printed, tweaked and re-printed, it is time to create a functional prototype to test performance and/or conduct market research. This stage helps when the design has been agreed upon, the concept model has validated the design, and it is ready for performance testing or tested with a sampling of the market. The material chosen at this stage, of course, depends on the application and the required mechanical properties, but typically an ABS, nylon, polycarbonate or composite material with good durability and heat resistance work very well for a functional prototype.

Scalable Production

The last stage of the new product prototype development process is introducing the product to the market, with a scalable production system, with which additive manufacturing provides an advantage due to the low fixed costs associated with doing a production run. At this point, the design has been created, tested, re-tested, and is now ready to introduce to market. Small batch production with 3D printing allows the unique opportunity to scale production with the market demand, saving money on inventory and allowing the opportunity for the design to still be modified with reasonable ease if needed. The material chosen, again, depends on the application and the required mechanical properties, but typically in a production part going into the hands of the consumers, excellent mechanical properties are required. A Nylon, ASA, Polycarbonate, or a Carbon Fiber-infused composite material would typically be used in production parts to provide the strength, durability, heat resistance, and the chemical resistance required in an end-product being introduced to the market.

Interested in improving your product prototype development process with additive manufacturing? Contact ZABFAB today!

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