If you offer product designs that simply aren't available anywhere else, you have the opportunity to corner a significant portion of your market. The downside of this is that many of these unique offerings may not sell in large enough quantities to warrant keeping inventory on hand. In addition to its other benefits, it is worth your time to learn all you can about how rapid prototyping can change how you design and produce new inventory.
How It Works
The first last step before production takes place on any project is developing a three-dimensional computer model of the final product. This gives developers and fabricators a final image to work from. With rapid prototyping the same process is used, but this 3D model is used to produce an exact replica of the design that can be held and manipulated.
Using the model, a rapid prototyping machine creates a solid product from polymers suspended in solution. A computer guided laser super-heats those polymers, solidifying them one layer at a time. When the process is complete, you have exactly what your computer model displayed, which can give you the opportunity for more extensive testing in nearly real world situations.
Rapid prototyping is essentially three-dimensional printing, eliminating the need for human fabrication of the design. This means less time spent operating CNC machines, creating molds or forms, or otherwise building any one-off products. Created from super-heated polymers, the final product has no moving parts initially, but different components of a single design can be fabricated in this way and assembled at your facility. This means no longer having to labor with raw materials yourself to fill relatively orders for products that are generally in low demand.
Virtually any solid object can be fabricated in this way, though the process isn't cost-effective for large volume production. For the purposes of testing new designs, creating a positive for future molds or small scale and individual item production, there are few methods that make more sense to your bottom-line. A rapid prototype offers you a fast, accurate and often a functional version of something that may not have existed anywhere else until now.
Rapid prototyping can be used for producing stocks for firearms, toys for children, or ergonomic grips for essential medical devices. While it's hard to know just how well your design will work until it exists in the real world, being able to hold your product in your hand can make all the difference to your future success.