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3D Printing Helps Transform How Designers Develop New Products

When you hear the word “invention,” what do you think of? Do you envision a solitary genius working in a shabby laboratory? Perhaps you imagine a pristine white laboratory filled with collage aged engineers testing out their designs in a highly controlled environment. The latest and greatest gizmo, gadget or technological advancement can happen in a number of different ways.

Start-up companies are often formed by a visionary with a grand idea that needs some help turning his/her vision into a workable prototype. Prototyping not too long ago required countless engineering hours at the drawing board, before a CAD technician could build a 3D CAD model electronically and then prototyping could take weeks or even months depending upon the complexity of your model. The time to market today has been dramatically reduced with the increased availability and speed of 3D printers. One of the most intriguing aspects of 3D printing technology is the ability for inventors to create functional prototypes rather inexpensively. Let’s take a look at the ways industrial designers and inventors are using 3D printing to create samples and trial products.

Visual Models

Full-color 3D printing, combined with binder jetting, material jetting and special printing paper, can render a vibrant result that is more than an image. This technology, sometimes referred to as rapid prototyping, makes multi-dimensional models that help designers fix flaws and validate designs to come up with a better end product, all on flat paper.

A company called 3D Systems has been developing the SLA technology which builds product models from CAD design files. The process uses a UV laser to trace cross sections across a vat of liquid polymer, hardening a thin layer of the material for each pass working its way from one cross section at a time.Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is being developed by Stratasys uses a temperature controlled head to extrude and deposit thermoplastic material in cross sections until the complete model is formed. Both of these processes have become standards in the 3D printing technologies used in lower cost systems that are helping inventors engineer their visual models

This multidimensional technology is evolving to meet the needs of designers in many industries, from manufacturers of high-end mobile phone cases to medical applications such as customized orthopedic devices.

Testing Function with Prototypes

Inventors and designers test the functionality of complex designs with trial products rendered through 3D printing technology. These prototypes simulate various materials that offer manufacturers a true look at how the end products will function. Often, businesses need working samples quickly, and this technology is designed to rapidly produce accurate models.

Building Better Tools

During production, as advanced designs move from the conceptual to the manufacturing phase, new 3D printing equipment. For metal parts for example, direct metal deposition (DMD) is a process that uses CNC lasers to fuse layers of metal powder providing often one off finished metal parts made of aluminum or even H13 tool steel.These completely functional prototypes can now be assembled into final components and tested properly for durability.

Invention helps companies in Pennsylvania like Definitive Design provide entrepreneurs and visionaries do much of the engineering, CAD designing and prototyping services for start-up companies. The future is 3D printing services is bright as new technologies are leveraged to make more manufacturing ready prototypes. Most inventors don’t know much about product design engineering but understand that visual models and functional prototypes are very important to the design process, especially if they are seeking investments and seed money.

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