3D printing, today, is playing an instrumental role in giving form to the ideas of several hardware start-ups. Right from a mere prototyping to taking the product to your customer, 3D printing can help start-ups at every stage.
Prototyping helps reduce Time to Market
Hardware start-ups have now started to enjoy the type of attention that their software counterparts have cherished for years. The decreasing cost of prototyping is playing a momentous role in lowering the barriers of entry and making it more feasible to develop a physical product within economic constraints.
Prototyping can help you validate and evolve a concept or product
Prototyping is so far the most widely used application of 3D printing. This is where your concept takes a shape that you can visualise and showcase to investors and community for feedback. Prototype also helps you to analyse the challenges you might face in look & feel, form testing, functionality and ergonomics. But a single prototype never really provides an understanding of all the above mentioned characteristics. Hence multiple prototypes are needed, and they help in giving designers a fairly good idea about the product as they evolve their concepts.
Once the design is finalised and approved, start-ups can now also use 3D printing for batch production where they can have 15-20 pieces of the product to test launch into market. Unlike prototype, batch produced products have better finishing and quality hence they could be more expensive than prototypes.
The application here is more consumer oriented, as the prototype will be given to prospective customer for primary feedback. These can help start-ups to get quick feedback and make needful modification before going for final tooling which will cost somewhere around USD 15,000 or above.
Couple of tips for every product company heading for 3D printing
1. Understand the materials available in 3D printing:
3D printing has a limited number of materials options unlike mass manufacturing. Based on your requirement, compare the material properties of the final injection molded material with the available 3D printing materials through material specification sheet. Word of caution, 3D printing technologies like FDM, SLS, SLA etc. can be misleading in all the cases. There is ABS that can be manufactured through FDM technology as well as through SLA technology, but both give poles apart properties.
2. Do not try to save on prototype even though it might be expensive in some cases:
Your prototype will give you customer confidence and investor’s confidence. Shabby prototype will finally be a bad representation of your concept. You need to understand that if the prototype does not work, there is high chance that even mass manufacturing will fail, and that will cost you a fortune in time and money.
Also, the whole point of Rapid prototyping is to test and validate the market early in the product development cycle, so that even if you were to fail, you would have failed early in the product development cycle, and you can always iterate from that point on. Failing early at the prototyping stage is good. Because this way, you save a lot by not failing at later stages.
Confused between buying the 3D printing or going for outsource services, read our next blog.
(image sources:-frost and sullivan analysis, slideshare,newelectronics.co.uk,3ders.com, electronics for you) Content by :- Yash Rane Director Chizel