The big hurdle in prototyping and 3D Printing specifically is the technology limitation of trying to create a prototype with exact properties as a production unit. Prototyping is not used for building a final unit, but rather, building a unit quickly, with a process such as 3D printing to prove out the final unit before investing heavily in production tooling on a product that does not function or feel as intended.
The Definition of a Prototype, as defined by Merriam-Webster is:
“: an original or first model of something from which other forms are copied or developed”
So many times, Inventors or Entrepreneurs believe that the first model is a final representation of their product. As we can see from the definition above, it is clearly a first model from which other forms are copied or developed. In traditional form, rapid prototyping was the only way to get a model of your product in prototype form, and it was very expensive. Only until recent years has 3D printing allowed us the opportunity to be innovative at a relatively inexpensive rate. 3D printing has and will continue to change the landscape of product development.
When building multiple samples of a product to achieve the perfect design, consider 3D Printing for the following reasons:
1. Cost Effective
2. Fast (Literally a few hours for most small parts), which increases speed to market
3. Fine Tolerance Details
4. Direct Manufacturing for some products so tooling is not required
5. Direct Tooling can also be produced for some manufacturing processes such as Vacuum Forming