TMCnet Feature
June 01, 2020

Rapid Prototyping Service - How to be More Productive?

In an era where quick gratification is the norm with little attention being paid to following a process, here is a look at some practices that will truly help you become more productive in your rapid prototyping service business.

Rapid prototyping isn’t an “easy” field of endeavor. One of its more unique features is that it is one venture that requires both physical as well as mental effort to be successful in. It is a technical as well as physically demanding field. Prospective rapid prototyping professionals have to undertake years of rigorous training before they are even fit to handle even the smallest of machines and perform the simplest tasks.

Productivity in this context means maximizing, to its fullest potential, the available resources and man power. This means that if a business is productive, it is operating at its maximum efficiency level, without any waste or redundancies within any process in production.

Before going any further, let us define rapid prototyping. According to Twi-Global, “Rapid prototyping is the fast fabrication of a physical part, model or assembly using 3D computer aided design (CAD). The creation of the part, model or assembly is usually completed using additive manufacturing, or more commonly known as 3D printing.” Within this concept, the distinction between high fidelity and low fidelity prototypes has to be made. High fidelity is used when the design is close in feel, look, and dimensions to the finished product – and when the reverse is the case, it is said to be low fidelity prototype.

Also important to look at is a rundown of some of the different processes that are integral to the field of rapid prototyping. They include; Stereolithography(SLA) , Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) or Material Jetting, Selective Laser Melting (SLM) or Powder Bed Fusion, Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM), Digital Light Processing (DLP), and Binder Jetting. These aren’t by any means all of the methods known to man, just some of the most used ones.

RP or rapid prototyping has some clear advantages, made manifest in the fact that it helps in giving a clearer picture of how a product will function and look in the early stages of the fabrication and manufacturing cycle. This further allows for changes and improvements to be implemented concurrently. The agile development situation created by rapid prototyping allows for businesses to quickly scale their production and modify their products in a versatile manner, being able to swiftly respond to perceived changes in the entire process, from design to functionality.

Achieving the peak of optimum productivity in rapid prototyping can sometimes seem like a herculean task – one that looks almost impossible to achieve, or at least highly improbable. It really isn’t though. It is just a matter of putting the right practices and processes in place to ensure increased efficiency and output, a combination of which leads to peak productivity.

One of the very small steps to take towards increased productivity is to explore the world of online communities centered on providing resources and literature to help burgeoning rapid prototyping services. One of those platforms is Shopbottools. The platform, with its wealth of connections in the space, is now a go-to for rapid prototyping professionals and enthusiasts alike.

 According to Ted Hall, the founder and administrator of the platform, “Basically, anyone can upload their designs and find local “fabbers” to make them. Users can also buy other people’s online designs. Designers are encouraged to post stuff free under a Creative Commons license which lets people use a design but not turn around and sell it,” says Hall. “At this point, we don’t know which way things are going to go, so we are trying to encourage everything. To this end, the 100kGarage site has just added free parametric files, for instance. These let users download the file of a 2 × 4-ft object, say, change the variables, and the object automatically becomes 3 × 5 ft. We are also talking about integrating capabilities from the free version of Alibre parametric modeling CAD software.” The platform has also partnered with other firms to run online communities engaged in prototyping and fabrication that host and sell designs for public purchase and use.

Aside from the above mentioned, here are other tips to follow:

Always define the goals for each and every project. Whether aesthetics, function, or a combination of both qualities, have a clear understanding of what your goals are on each project.

Communicate effectively with the customer to understand their requirements. Listen and grasp your client’s instructions to a tee. Failure to do so will result in material wastage as well as backlogs in production that will take time to remedy – not to mention lost goodwill on the part of the clients themselves.

Understand the work material properly. Materials like, wood, metal, and even glass come in different types that have vastly different qualities. Always determine the kind of material best suited for each project and make reservations to suit their strengths and weaknesses.

Make sure to keep your suppliers constantly informed. Rapid prototyping is a business that relies heavily on input, with a tight supply chain.  This means that any hitch in materials supply can prove detrimental to the survival of the business. Maintain a steady stream of communication with your suppliers.

Always focus on the important elements of each project. When a client brings you a project, there are certain high priority elements that they have in mind with regards to that project. Always hone in on those aspects and place a lower priority on the rest. This will boost turnover times on each project. In relation to this, always make sure to properly define your goals with each and every project. Have a clear idea of what constitutes a feasible set of goals for each project and execute accordingly without straying. This results in a leaner rapid prototyping service.

To conclude, it is important to hone in on the essentials. Rapid prototyping is a multifaceted business that can seem overwhelming at times. Focus is an important trait and if applied, can exponentially boost productivity.

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