By Dr. Ron L. Hollis, P.E., President & CEO, Quickparts.com
Prototyping has been around since the beginning of the development of the first product. In reality, all products are just prototypes as they continue their evolution from the product that exists today to the product it becomes tomorrow.
The great news is that in world today, the tools available to make product development faster and better are very accessible. With powerful and inexpensive CAD software for design and the ability to output the digital representation of the product, we are able to feed this information into awesome manufacturing machines called rapid prototyping machines that will make your product a reality.
Today, the power of rapid prototyping is just a click away and will allow a designer to transform the virtual, digital product into a real, physical product that can be touched, used, tested and modified.
This power has a significant impact on the overall life of the product. There are three very important areas that every manager and executive should keep in mind when it comes to leveraging rapid prototyping for their product development process.
In the hyper-competitive world of today, the need for innovation is more critical than ever. In order for a product to reach its market in the condition for rapid consumer acceptance, the product must hit the market with many more iteration cycles than it would have required just 20 years ago.
The product needs to have gone through several critical assessments to ensure that it is truly innovative. The power of rapid prototyping today allows for the designers and development team to have fully-functional, physical products early in the development.
This allows for the assessment of theories, testing, ergonomics, packaging and other capabilities that were once left until later in a long and slow development process. With rapid prototyping, a development team is able to tweak, tweak and tweak some more to near perfection.
One would think having the power of innovation would come with a price. However, one of the misnomers is that the power of rapid prototyping can actually cost less than traditional practices.
With rapid prototyping, a development team is able to develop new products, and have these products assessed for Design for Manufacturability (DFM), Design for Assembly (DFA), packaging, ergonomics and a wide range of other areas.
By having the real product in hand before investing in the expensive tooling of development, the team is not guessing what the product will be, but actually has the product to make better.
By leveraging this power, simple mistakes are avoided, which eliminate the very expensive waste that can occur when the product goes to manufacturing. Avoiding a single tooling change due to a design issue will more than cover the cost of most prototyping for a development program. Also, with the power a physical product, the communication for the team and partners is very constructive.
The only way for a product ever start generating revenue is to get it to market so the customer can purchase it. In a world where the life of the product is much shorter (less than 12 months in some industries), then getting the product to the market very quickly and well ahead of the competition is imperative to the success of the product and maximizing the ROI for the product.
By leveraging rapid prototyping, the reduction in rework and changes in manufacturing will eliminate wasted weeks in the development process. By getting the product right the first time with many iterations, an abundance of communication and detailed assessments, the product development team can know what to expect and be able to focus on the desires of their customer in order to maximize revenue and profit.
Rapid prototyping is now a standard part of the product development process for serious developers.
The power is significant when understanding how it drives innovation, saves development dollars, and gets products to market faster. This power was so important that I wrote a book, Better Be Running!: Tools to Drive Design Success to show how to exploit these savings with the specific rapid prototyping methods.
More information can be found at www.betterberunning.com.
Filed Under: Rapid prototyping