10 Reasons Product Designers Prototype With 3D Printing

Prototyping is a necessary stage in product development that can be time consuming and expensive for product designers, sometimes taking weeks-long chunks out of the development process. But as 3D printing technology has entered the scene, rapid prototyping has become its most popular application in all areas of design whether it be in jewelry, architecture or engineering, and more, because it facilitates the product design process considerably. Using 3D printing for rapid prototyping, designs can be tested and improved at a higher rate, therefore increasing production efficiency and cutting costs. Realistic iterations can be printed quickly for any stage of the design process, from a concept model to a functional prototype, and allow the designer to explore a physical piece to improve and avoid problems early on.

Want to learn more? Here are 10 ways rapid prototyping with 3D printing streamlines the design process:

1. Optimize The Design Using 3D Software

By creating the blueprints for the prototypes
and final design in 3D software, any edits or improvements to that design are
reflected accurately and promptly. The design can be visualized enough at this
initial stage to reduce any errors of communication and to make early
improvements that will save substantial time during the prototyping and
production stages. If the product or part requires customization, this design
can be revisited and expanded upon at any time.

2. Take Advantage of Form Freedom

3D design allows for the creation of complex geometries
that might not be as attainable in other processes. This allows for expanded
freedom in the design and the final shape of the product can only be limited by
the designer’s imagination. This flexibility makes it possible to produce a
professional proof of concept of innovative and original pieces without
sacrificing additional time or costs in the development process.

3. Save Time in Prototype Production

In traditional prototyping, the product designer or engineer would use materials such as cardboard, styrofoam or wood to create initial prototypes, then move on to creating functional prototypes using manufacturing processes typically used for finished products. This is often a costly and time-consuming process, and often not a practical use of resources when the product is still in the developing stages. With 3D printing, a prototype at any stage of the design process can be printed quickly and provide the exact information needed in that stage whether it is a proof of concept or a functional prototype. When developing a part, being able to reiterate quickly and affordably is crucial, and 3D printing facilitates that need for all stages of prototyping.

4. Save on or Eliminate Tooling Costs

3D Printing acts as an all-in-one production method for low-volume production and for rapid prototyping. The technology eliminates the need to gather other manufacturing components or machines. Manufacturing methods like injection molding are much more costly to set up, especially for small quantities, and make creating custom prototypes very expensive and time consuming.

5. Create More Time for Designing and Customizing

Instead of having to wait weeks for a prototype
to be constructed by hand or for a mold to be made, prototypes can be 3D
printed in a matter of hours or days depending on its size. It allows for
mistakes to be fixed more quickly and for the design to evolve at a much higher
rate, leaving more time for further innovation, customization or moving on to
the next design.

6. Save Time Communicating Ideas and Information

When a product or part is being developed, it is extremely important to be able to communicate without misinterpretation and to leave as little to the imagination as possible when discussing with a client or any other involved parties. 3D printed prototypes look more professional and can communicate details better than a 2D drawing. This enables more viable and specific feedback for revisions to be made quickly and efficiently. The better the level of information in prototyping stages, the better the final product.

7. Choose from a Wide Range of Materials Depending on Each Iteration’s Purpose

Different materials can be used based on different prototyping stages to illustrate or explore the integrity of the design. Early iterations can be printed in more affordable plastics such as our Versatile Plastic, while later, more refined versions can be printed in different materials to fit the specific needs or testing requirements of the product. Many of our materials are end-use ready, saving you the need to look for a manufacturer once the product is market ready.

8. Minimize Material Usage Where Possible

In initial stages of prototyping different printing methods can be used to save on materials. If a version of a prototype is meant to show the shape alone, for example, it can be scaled down and hollowed out. Lattice or honeycomb designs can be used for surfaces to cut down on materials and costs while still communicating key information about the part or product. The on-demand nature of 3D printing eliminates material waste during the prototyping stages.

9. Use 3D Printing Services for Prototyping

You can save a lot of money on equipment start-up costs by working with 3D printing services like Shapeways. By printing with a specialized service you do not need to own any printers or materials, your model will be reviewed by engineers before they are printed, eliminating trials and errors encountered when using your own machine. You are guaranteed a high level of quality control, the use of industrial-grade printers and should you need technical assistance, your inquiries will be answered by experts in the 3D printing space.

10. Use Realistic Prototypes for Marketing and Sales Needs

Once the final design has been revised and refined to satisfaction, realistic prototypes can be used to get a head start on marketing and sales promotions. A visual model of the product can be used before money is spent on manufacturing to test with potential customers, for use on a sales floor or to send your products to beta testers to help validate the design.

3D printing is a crucial tool for designers to facilitate a more efficient prototyping process. It saves time and money and also generates a higher level of design freedom, and improves communication with clients and prospective customers. By making the prototyping process faster and without sacrificing on quality, this helps design innovation maintain a competitive edge.

Ready to start prototyping your next idea, part or product with Shapeways? Upload your design now or get in touch with our team to discuss your unique innovation.

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The post 10 Reasons Product Designers Prototype With 3D Printing appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

What’s In A Technology Name?

The good news is that a technology by any other name might perform as sweet, to riff off of Juliet’s centuries-old question — but we still have to ask: what’s in a name?

This question comes up all the time when
talking about manufacturing processes used today, especially those newer to
shop floors like 3D printing. (Or is that additive manufacturing…or rapid
prototyping?)

Let’s start at the beginning. This technology suite traces its current roots back to the 1980s when processes like stereolithography (SLA) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) were being developed. These technologies found their initial usage in prototyping applications, achieving faster results than traditional processes. As these and other layer-by-layer approaches developed and matured over the last few decades, applications evolved as well, including into end-use production.

Throughout this briefly laid out history, we
see several stages of evolution in both process and usage. At each stage, a
different name has been appropriate, growing along with the fledgling industry
surrounding these technologies. Now that we’re in 2020, though, and have four
decades of experience in this maturing manufacturing area, we’re able to take a
step back and look at what the best terminology is to use today.

3D
Printing or Additive Manufacturing?

A question that comes up a lot is simple:
“What’s the difference between 3D printing and additive manufacturing?”

At the simplest level of response, these terms
are often used interchangeably. Use either phrasing and anyone in the industry
will understand what you mean. But of course, there are ways to be more
accurate in discussing these processes, and more precise in nomenclature.

3D printing is the process of actually
building up a part, as a step in the overall additive manufacturing workflow.
Additive manufacturing itself can be seen to encompass the total process: CAD
design to slicing to 3D printing to post-processing to finished product. Rapid
prototyping would then be an application, rather than referring to the process
itself.

That’s one way of looking at it, and
understanding what is meant when any of these terms are bandied about.

Another way is in terms of the user. Additive
manufacturing is recognized as a more industrial term, and tends to encompass
expensive professional machinery being used in applications from prototyping to
end-use product production. 3D printing can refer to the process of
layer-by-layer building of an object, or more generally to refer to any usage
of this technology, from hobbyists using inexpensive desktop systems to
professionals using industrial equipment. Rapid prototyping was one of the
first terms used for these technologies, which in the 1980s were geared toward
the rapid production of prototypes and for a few decades so dominated usage
that this application was synonymous with the tech itself.

These conversations are ongoing, and opinions among experts are still fairly varied. When, for example, in working to understand viewpoints on the terminology of technology, I turned to industry professionals, responses extended from ease of understanding to familiarity of phrasing.

That conversation was perhaps best summed up by industry veteran Rachel Park, long-time journalist and currently a principal at PYL Associates, who said of 3D printing (3DP) and additive manufacturing (AM):

“3DP versus AM will not be resolved any time
soon, and like many others here, I often use them interchangeably depending on
application, audience and process being used. On that – I have noticed that
process names (re the 7 categories identified by ASTM) are being used more
frequently, to differentiate capabilities and applications for manufacturing /
production.”

3D
Printing Technologies

That leads into an important conversation in
its own right, as the different 3D printing processes each have their own
terminology to take into account.

Industry expert Terry Wohlers, Founder of independent consulting firm Wohlers Associates, which puts out the annual Wohlers Report, recently discussed the importance of terminology through the lens of industry standard phrasing. He brings up several key points in this Wohlers Talk piece, chief among them the very availability of industry standards.

ASTM International, which defines standards in
a number of industries including additive manufacturing, has been publishing
terms for AM to serve as recognized standards. The first version, as Wohlers
points out, was published in 2009 as the ASTM F2792 Standard Terminology for
Additive Manufacturing Technologies defined 26 terms. That work was
foundational for the current ISO/ASTM 52900 Standard Terminology for Additive
Manufacturing.

As laid out from that standard in Wohlers
Talk, the presently recognized seven AM processes include:

  • Material extrusion—an additive manufacturing process in which material is selectively dispensed through a nozzle or orifice
  • Material jetting—an additive manufacturing process in which droplets of build material are selectively deposited
  • Binder jetting—an additive manufacturing process in which a liquid bonding agent is selectively deposited to join powder materials
  • Sheet lamination—an additive manufacturing process in which sheets of material are bonded to form a part
  • Vat photopolymerization—an additive manufacturing process in which liquid photopolymer in a vat is selectively cured by light-activated polymerization
  • Powder bed fusion—an additive manufacturing process in which thermal energy selectively fuses regions of a powder bed
  • Directed energy deposition—an additive manufacturing process in which focused thermal energy is used to fuse materials by melting as they are being deposited

Different companies, of course, refer to
technologies that fall under these umbrellas by proprietary names. Think of the
ongoing conversation regarding FFF v. FDM (that is, the common term Fused
Filament Fabrication versus the trademarked Fused Deposition Modeling), both of
which effectively refer to the same process and are in fact classified as
material extrusion.

Seeking to differentiate may lead many a
company to brand copiously; why say the standard “material extrusion” when they
could tout FFF, which as an acronym may sound more intriguing — or, if that
branding is from Stratasys, why not further herald FDM, which is trademarked
and is one of the original 3D printing technologies invented decades ago.
There’s certainly something to be said for standing apart from the crowd by
owning a process name.

Still, it absolutely comes across clearly to
everyone what sort of process is up for discussion when the term is universal;
material extrusion will convey just what’s meant quite neatly, and without any
potential confusion.

Naturally we must include a disclaimer that
while these seven ISO/ASTM recognized processes cover most of what we see in 3D
printing, they do not cover every technology. Significant R&D is ongoing
around the world, with efforts to create wholly new 3D printing technologies
abounding. Most of even these new processes will still fall generally under one
of these categories, but some will be new unto themselves. This is why
standards creation is so important, as these experts regularly discuss and
evaluate new processes that may need to be added.

What’s
In A Name?

So ultimately, what is in a name?

Everything, when it comes to clarity,
legality, and precision. Certainly it never hurts to be precise when sharing
information about industrial technologies.

At the same time, if you say “additive manufacturing” to someone unfamiliar with today’s advanced production processes, it’s perfectly fine to clarify that you mean “3D printing”, which may be more easily understood. There’s a time and place for full accuracy, but as always the most important part of communication is establishing understanding.

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The World’s Best Sleep Fan Is A Fan Of 3D Printing: Rapid Prototyping With SNOOZ

SNOOZ is known as the world’s best-sounding white noise machine. The device, which houses a real fan, creates white noise to encourage sleep — without either the annoyance of a looping soundtrack or unwanted cold air in cooler months. The best-selling system is seeing success in travel and home use as the sleep fan continues to gain fans around the world.

Working with Shapeways to 3D print dozens (and dozens and dozens) of designs to reach the ideal sound system, the SNOOZ team cut substantial time and costs in their production process by rapidly prototyping. The savings over traditional machining was major enough that this Las Vegas-based startup has now been working with Shapeways for more than five years — and still has more product work with us in the pipeline for the next devices.

We interviewed SNOOZ CTO and Co-Founder Eli Lazar to dig into how SNOOZ utilized Shapeways’ 3D printing technology and services to make a new product possible.

SNOOZ Co-Founders Eli Lazar (left) and Matthew Snyder. Photo source: SNOOZ

Having parts machined was always an option too, but from our experience, that is 10-25x higher cost [than 3D printing], and perhaps 10x slower, which was just not an option for us.

Eli begins by laying out the big picture:

“The Shapeways printing service has really been instrumental to the success of our product and company. Our product is a specialized fan for sleeping, and in the quiet of a bedroom you can literally hear every frequency, so any unwanted tones people will pick up right away. We used Shapeways to print probably 100+ variations of our product to perfect the acoustics and create our signature sound.

As a result, by the end of this year we will have sold nearly 100k units, and we have a 4.7 star rating on Amazon (without manipulation) with nearly 1,500 reviews. SNOOZ is also used in nearly 2,000 hotel rooms across the country as well. 

To be very direct, without having access to the Shapeways printing service our product would not have been nearly as good as it is today, or perhaps, not a success at all. Shapeways gave just two average guys with very limited finances access to world class rapid prototyping at an affordable price. That has really made the difference in our product and the reviews we have received. In fact, we found the precision from Shapeways prints to be so good that when we machined our actual plastic molds for production, we didn’t have to do any changes and were able to go to production much faster and at a lower cost. We also have two new products coming out this year, both of which have been prototyped on Shapeways, and we have started on developing a new product which will be using Shapeways again for.”

After prototyping 100+ variations, SNOOZ created a market-ready product. Photo source: SNOOZ

At the beginning, how did you come to the decision to use 3D printing instead of other manufacturing methods?

“Without 3D printing, I am not sure we could have ever developed a viable product, or at least one that people actually liked. Our fan blade is entirely custom, and small details make a huge difference. A 1-degree extra twist in the blades or 1mm extra length or width of the blades, and it generates a whole different set of tones. You can use software to simulate the acoustics for a fan blade design, and we did do quite a bit of this. However, these simulations can take up to a few weeks to run, and they are really not accurate enough to predict the subtleties that we were interested in. The best way I can explain this is that a stringed piano is always acoustically superior to a digital keyboard, because the timbre (perceived sound quality) of real sound is just better than any digital replica. With that said, we had to make actual parts. Having parts machined was always an option too, but from our experience, that is 10-25x higher cost, and perhaps 10x slower, which was just not an option for us.”

Did you already have technical knowledge in 3D printing? If not, was there a learning curve to getting into this technology?

“We didn’t have any prior experience with 3D printing before SNOOZ. It was actually for this reason that I was drawn to the Shapeways website. A lot of other 3D printing services seemed to put the burden of getting the print right more on the user. When we first started using Shapeways in 2015, I think you were the only online platform where you could instantly get your 3D CAD analyzed for printing with a quoted price. Even still, I think Shapeways has the most user friendly website for 3D printing. The only learning curve was figuring out what tolerances to use so parts could snap together well. However, since I found Shapeways prints to be repeatable and accurate to the CAD, every time, it became pretty easy. I actually use the same tolerances we figured out worked in 2015 to this day, and that is nearly a five year span.”

Components of SNOOZ, a portable white noise sound machine. Photo source: SNOOZ

What material(s) do you print in and why?

“We have printed in SLA, Versatile Plastic (Nylon), and PLA (which you guys offered shortly). However, Versatile Plastic is our preferred choice for prototyping. The main reason is the strength of the parts. We actually produce some parts out of Nylon and the strength and flexibility of a 3D printed part is definitely on par with a Nylon molded part that comes out of an industrial factory.”

Are you able to share any quantifiable metrics on the time and/or cost you’ve saved by prototyping with Shapeways?

“I found an early quote to machine a single part for $381 that we eventually ended up just 3D printing with Shapeways for about $30. Since then, we have printed over 100 parts, so the savings has literally made the difference in us being able to afford to start SNOOZ. Also, in terms of timing, it is absolutely incredible to be able to design a part on Monday and have it in your hand within a week or so. If the legendary inventors of the past had access to this technology, the world would be a vastly different place today.”

SNOOZ has sold tens of thousands of units since 2015. Photo source: SNOOZ

By rapid prototyping with 3D printing, the
SNOOZ team was able to test out more than 100 designs to find their perfect
acoustic fit — and then translate the final prototype directly into scale
production. The ease with which SNOOZ put the pieces together, at a literal
fraction of the cost of traditional machining, highlights the effectiveness of
3D printing throughout the product development cycle. And today? We’re SNOOZ’s
biggest fans!

Find out how Shapeways can help with your rapid prototyping needs today.

The post The World’s Best Sleep Fan Is A Fan Of 3D Printing: Rapid Prototyping With SNOOZ appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

Creating Permanence – Why Prototyping in 3D Leads to Greater Success

Innovation has been a driving factor in our society from the very beginning. Ever since humans first made stone tools for carving, our world has been driven by innovating the “new.” 150 years ago, business leaders were often quoted that “everything that could be invented has been.” As we recharge our smart phones and watch private companies lift off into outer space, it is clear this thought is far from true.

For companies that focus on innovation, it is not only new ideas that drive their business, but also new tools that help to transform these ideas into working prototypes that help them achieve ongoing success.

For thousands of years it has been the pen and paper that has stood out as the primary tool for visualizing innovative concept in prototype form.  While writing instruments have unlimited capabilities in the 2D medium, in the end, the sum of their parts as a tool is limiting. Drawings, designs and sketches are by their nature restrictive and passive in scope. They are flat, 2D and can only be described as “plans on paper” or blueprints.

We are very fortunate to live in a time when designers have more tools than ever to assist in the visualization of their inspiration. And there is one tool in particular whose full power is unleashed when specifically applied to the prototyping process.

I’m talking about 3D printing.

What is Permanence? Turning An Object From Passive to Active

Whether the concept of 3D printing is foreign or familiar to you, there is no denying that this revolutionary technology by its very nature allows objects to transition from concept to permanence. And this is a key factor when applied to the prototyping process. So what is “permanence” and why is it important?

Permanence is the metamorphosis of an object, concept or expression from the 2D to the 3D. And what comes with permanence is not just the ability to visually see an object from multiple angles. Its major ontological impact is that an object with permanence is experienced actively.

What this means is that a drawing, a cartoon or a doodle is viewed in a passive experience. Like a comic book or a movie, you see it, and then you look away. There is no interaction. There is no weight, no tactile contact, no long-term interaction with the observer.

But an object with permanence is transformed into an active
experience. It is in three dimensions of space. It has weight, it has tactile integration.
And this emotional connection is key to the prototyping process.

With a 3D object, the observer can experience it in
countless ways that a passive drawing does not permit. How will gravity effect
it? What does it feel like? How does it look on a shelf with other objects when
moved from point A to point B?

Our 3D printing solutions allow design firms to generate a new design into a fully-rendered concept that one can hold, touch and interact with, and provides not only permanence as noted above, but also creates a path to improvement and redesign that 2D drawings never can.

Holding a 3D printed prototype in your hand allows you to
examine its faults, advantages and perhaps even discover capabilities you
didn’t even know it had. No longer are you limited to viewing your blueprints
and imagining what a design would look like, the 3D printing revolution has now
given you the power to examine, refine and redesign your creation in a way
never before permitted.

Give Potential Customers An Experience, Not A Presentation

When designers are limited to presenting their ideas in a
passive way it maintains a passive presentation. Anyone that is reviewing your
design, invention or concept when looking at a drawing does not experience a
solid relationship with that prototype concept. They view it, and then they
turn away (or cease viewing it). A passive experience.

A designer from our community tests out HP Nylon Plastic

But when holding a 3D model of your prototype in their hand – that is an active experience. And the emotional connection this creates is exponentially greater in creating positive feelings and interest in said prototype.

Using 3D printing, you can now transform a prototype from passive to active. No longer is your audience limited to merely viewing your prototype. They are now experiencing it. A 3D object cannot be avoided or ignored or experienced passively. And the ability to prototype this way is a major advantage to 3D printing.

The Exact Part You Need

The advantages of 3D printing prototypes does not stop with helping to create permanence and an active experience.

In addition to making your design into an active experience,
3D printing also allows for trial and error in the real world. And it allows
for an exact transformation of your imagination into reality.

Often design firms are limited by “parts on hand” when
creating what is termed a “looks like” or even a “works like” prototype model.
But with the revolution of 3D printing, any part, angle or object needed to
accurately represent or even function like your creation is now accessible.

Gone are the days when a broom handle and a stack of glued-together poker chips are substituted for the exact design you have in mind. With the advent of 3D printing, a 1:1 duplicate of your mind’s creation can now exist. And because it is in 3D, all of the advantages of permanence and an active experience as described above are now infused in your prototype.

With the new tools and powers provided by 3D printing, prototyping has not only become easier, it leads to designs that are exact duplicates of your imagination. No longer does your audience need to interpret a drawing or experience your invention passively. Creating a “looks like” model is now replaced with “a model.”

And how amazing is that!


Want to learn more? We’re here to help with your prototyping needs.

learn more

The post Creating Permanence – Why Prototyping in 3D Leads to Greater Success appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

Creating Permanance – Why Prototyping in 3D Leads to Greater Success

Innovation has been a driving factor in our society from the very beginning. Ever since humans first made stone tools for carving, our world has been driven by innovating the “new.” 150 years ago, business leaders were often quoted that “everything that could be invented has been.” As we recharge our smart phones and watch private companies lift off into outer space, it is clear this thought is far from true.

For companies that focus on innovation, it is not only new ideas that drive their business, but also new tools that help to transform these ideas into working prototypes that help them achieve ongoing success.

For thousands of years it has been the pen and paper that has stood out as the primary tool for visualizing innovative concept in prototype form.  While writing instruments have unlimited capabilities in the 2D medium, in the end, the sum of their parts as a tool is limiting. Drawings, designs and sketches are by their nature restrictive and passive in scope. They are flat, 2D and can only be described as “plans on paper” or blueprints.

We are very fortunate to live in a time when designers have more tools than ever to assist in the visualization of their inspiration. And there is one tool in particular whose full power is unleashed when specifically applied to the prototyping process.

I’m talking about 3D printing.

What is Permanence? Turning An Object From Passive to Active

Whether the concept of 3D printing is foreign or familiar to you, there is no denying that this revolutionary technology by its very nature allows objects to transition from concept to permanence. And this is a key factor when applied to the prototyping process. So what is “permanence” and why is it important?

Permanence is the metamorphosis of an object, concept or expression from the 2D to the 3D. And what comes with permanence is not just the ability to visually see an object from multiple angles. Its major ontological impact is that an object with permanence is experienced actively.

What this means is that a drawing, a cartoon or a doodle is viewed in a passive experience. Like a comic book or a movie, you see it, and then you look away. There is no interaction. There is no weight, no tactile contact, no long-term interaction with the observer.

But an object with permanence is transformed into an active
experience. It is in three dimensions of space. It has weight, it has tactile integration.
And this emotional connection is key to the prototyping process.

With a 3D object, the observer can experience it in
countless ways that a passive drawing does not permit. How will gravity effect
it? What does it feel like? How does it look on a shelf with other objects when
moved from point A to point B?

Our 3D printing solutions allow design firms to generate a new design into a fully-rendered concept that one can hold, touch and interact with, and provides not only permanence as noted above, but also creates a path to improvement and redesign that 2D drawings never can.

Holding a 3D printed prototype in your hand allows you to
examine its faults, advantages and perhaps even discover capabilities you
didn’t even know it had. No longer are you limited to viewing your blueprints
and imagining what a design would look like, the 3D printing revolution has now
given you the power to examine, refine and redesign your creation in a way
never before permitted.

Give Potential Customers An Experience, Not A Presentation

When designers are limited to presenting their ideas in a
passive way it maintains a passive presentation. Anyone that is reviewing your
design, invention or concept when looking at a drawing does not experience a
solid relationship with that prototype concept. They view it, and then they
turn away (or cease viewing it). A passive experience.

A designer from our community tests out HP Nylon Plastic

But when holding a 3D model of your prototype in their hand – that is an active experience. And the emotional connection this creates is exponentially greater in creating positive feelings and interest in said prototype.

Using 3D printing, you can now transform a prototype from passive to active. No longer is your audience limited to merely viewing your prototype. They are now experiencing it. A 3D object cannot be avoided or ignored or experienced passively. And the ability to prototype this way is a major advantage to 3D printing.

The Exact Part You Need

The advantages of 3D printing prototypes does not stop with helping to create permanence and an active experience.

In addition to making your design into an active experience,
3D printing also allows for trial and error in the real world. And it allows
for an exact transformation of your imagination into reality.

Often design firms are limited by “parts on hand” when
creating what is termed a “looks like” or even a “works like” prototype model.
But with the revolution of 3D printing, any part, angle or object needed to
accurately represent or even function like your creation is now accessible.

Gone are the days when a broom handle and a stack of glued-together poker chips are substituted for the exact design you have in mind. With the advent of 3D printing, a 1:1 duplicate of your mind’s creation can now exist. And because it is in 3D, all of the advantages of permanence and an active experience as described above are now infused in your prototype.

With the new tools and powers provided by 3D printing, prototyping has not only become easier, it leads to designs that are exact duplicates of your imagination. No longer does your audience need to interpret a drawing or experience your invention passively. Creating a “looks like” model is now replaced with “a model.”

And how amazing is that!


Want to learn more? We’re here to help with your prototyping needs.

learn more

The post Creating Permanance – Why Prototyping in 3D Leads to Greater Success appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

The Future Of Aerospace 3D Printing

Innovations in the aerospace industry have been seeing huge strives when it comes to 3D printing. Aerospace companies and organizations from around the globe are using 3D printing for both prototyping and end-use parts. These applications have been ramping up for years — and now we’re looking ahead to the future of 3D printing in aerospace.

Aerospace
3D Printing Today

Aerospace is a unique fit for 3D printing, offering a prime application area for many of the benefits of additive manufacturing technologies. Among these benefits are:

  • Part consolidation
  • Lightweighting
  • Complex geometries (“freedom of design”)
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Low-volume production
  • Digital inventory

Leveraging these benefits is proving
transformative for aerospace manufacturing as today’s aircraft, rockets, and
other commercial, private, and military aerospace builds are increasingly able
to perform better than ever before. Fewer, lighter parts mean fewer assembly
points that could be a potential weakness as well as a lighter weight
structure, enhancing fuel efficiency and load capabilities.

Aerospace has long been a ‘city on a hill’ for
additive manufacturing, offering highly visible proof points of the
technology’s high-flying potential to very literally fly high.

Like in the automotive industry, many
aerospace entities have been using 3D printing internally for years, if not
decades. Also like the automotive industry, though, many companies have seen
the technology as a competitive advantage best kept somewhat under wraps. This
has perhaps benefited these companies’ bottom lines — but it has limited the
visibility of these applications.

The GE fuel nozzle — which famously reduced from approximately 20 welded pieces into one 3D printed (and 25% lighter weight) piece — was among one of the highest-profile individual applications to be publicly shared. Such use cases are only ramping up; between 2015 and 2018, for example, GE 3D printed 30,000 of those fuel nozzles. Still, though, these examples are often heard over and over again because many other specific use cases are still seen as proprietary ‘secret sauce’ and not public knowledge.

The cat’s out of the bag by now, though, and
it’s almost an assumption that any aerospace company is in some way utilizing
3D printing in its operations.

From SpaceX and NASA to Boeing and Airbus,
this is certainly the case. These companies are among the highest-profile in
aerospace to share at least some look into their 3D printing usage.
Applications range from visible cabin components in passenger airplanes to
made-in-space tools on the International Space Station, with both mission
critical and aesthetic uses well represented.

The secrecy of ‘secret sauce’ is slowly
changing, too, as in addition to broadening adoption of 3D printing, space
exploration is becoming privatized.

Organizations like SpaceX certainly have their fair share of trade secrets but are also open about their use of 3D printing in applications from spacecraft to personalized astronaut helmets. 3D printing is often coming into play as well to not only make components of rocket engines, but also in new uses such as at Rocket Crafters for their fuel grains.

Smaller, private companies working in the
space industry are celebrating the technologies they use to gain traction in
technological advance and out-of-this-world achievements. By highlighting
instead of hiding the tech helping them to accelerate toward their own
liftoffs, these new entities are contributing directly to a shift in the
conversation around aerospace technologies.

Aerospace
3D Printing Tomorrow

When we look ahead, we can see an even brighter
future for an aerospace industry making more and better use of additive
manufacturing opportunities.

While certainly the technologies will improve,
providing natural points of improvement even from those areas already
leveraging additive manufacturing, the largest single point of future impact
for aerospace overall will simply be wider spread adoption.

While the 3D printing industry has
historically been excellent at internally sharing the benefits of the
technology (like those bulleted above), a sticking point has been in
externalizing this message. Aerospace becoming a more open industry with these
new private entities on the rise, and with more participants discussing the
advanced technologies they put to use every day, will see industrial additive manufacturing
gaining more attention, and more traction, overall.

If the GE fuel nozzle made anyone do a
double-take, the next innovations to come — or even those already accomplished
and not yet publicized — are sure to be fully head-turning.

Further parts consolidation, lightweighting,
and other means of taking advantage of the freedoms that DfAM (design for
additive manufacturing) enables have the potential to see massive advances in
aircraft and spacecraft manufacture.

By optimizing every part of an aircraft,
completely rethinking and redesigning the whole, a manufacturer might see
unprecedented capabilities emerge. In an industry where every ounce of
structural weight matters and lessening any possible point of failure is a
must, industrial 3D printing is an obvious fit.

The technology will only continue to make headway into the aerospace industry going forward, and with that larger general footprint will come more significant discrete advances. The future of aerospace and 3D printing is a relationship that will be ever more tightly intertwined.

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The post The Future Of Aerospace 3D Printing appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

The Business Case For 3D Printing Prototypes

If practice makes perfect, then prototyping should lead to the perfect final product. But how does your business select the best-fit technology to prototype?

Dozens of options are available to choose
among when making a prototype. We’re going to explore why businesses are
choosing 3D printing for their prototypes.

Prototyping
From Concept To Creation

Prototyping typically involves a number of
stages, each requiring a physical product made to meet the needs of a
go-to-market step of a new design and subject to an array of testing
procedures.

These, broadly, include:

  • Concept
  • Assembly / Fit
  • Functional
  • Life Test
  • Regulatory

From a rough conceptual creation that prioritizes speed and appearance, a prototype is necessary to bring a design from idea to the physical. The earliest stages of prototyping often require the fastest turnaround in fabrication, as getting an actual object in hand is the only way to gauge viability for product development.

As each stage of prototyping progresses,
though, needs change. The prototypes must become less rough around the edges as
those edges will be subject to testing for fit, functionality, mechanical
properties, and other physical needs.

A final prototype may often be visually if not
tactilely indistinguishable from an end-use product, which can help in showing
potential investors or creating marketing materials for a new product even
before mass production ramps up.

Speeding
Time-To-Market With Rapid Prototyping

3D printing is a young technology suite, and
one with many names. While it is increasingly referred to as additive
manufacturing today, with end-use part production possible, most notably for
low-volume or spare parts manufacture, the technology’s first nomenclature in
the 1980s was synonymous with its initial primary use: rapid prototyping.

When you speak to someone who’s been in this
industry since its early days, they may still naturally refer to “rapid
prototyping” or “RP” more often than “3D printing” or “additive manufacturing”
through many years of ingrained habit.

Decades later, rapid prototyping remains the
primary application for 3D printing technologies across the world.

What is it about 3D printing that adds the
“rapid” to “prototyping”? Digitization.

Taking a 3D model directly to a 3D printer for
fabrication speeds the process of prototyping. Digital models can be made quite
quickly using a variety of 3D printing technologies, removing the needs for
many steps in other, more traditional fabrication technologies. No tooling is
needed, for example, nor is there a waiting period while molds are made and
filled. It’s also much faster and more precise than hand-fabricating.

Additive manufacturing adds material, rather
than removing it from blocks as is done in subtractive methods like CNC, saving
on costs of materials that even for prototypes can run up total project costs.

3D
Printing Process & Materials For Prototyping

The selection of 3D printing process and
material can be adjusted for specific needs at every stage of product design.

During initial prototyping stages, a low-cost
material can be used with low infill and thicker layers, lowering material
costs and speeding print time to create a rough-and-ready first look at a new
design.

Whether plastic or metal, 3D printing can
quickly fabricate a product that will come to look and feel just like the
desired end result.

By starting with a low-cost plastic material
and moving after a few iterations to metal, for example, a product that will
eventually be conventionally fabricated using metal can come to market much
more quickly than would be the case by machining each iteration — a
traditional pathway that ultimately costs much more in terms of time, money,
and labor.

Following early proof-of-concept stages,
subsequent versions can be made similarly quickly to get to just the right look
and fit before moving into more finessed prototypes. Tweaking a digital file to
adjust for better look, fit, appropriate scale, or other needs can be done
quickly, with a next iteration 3D printed potentially same-day.

Some 3D printing options, like HP and Carbon, also enable the capability of prototyping and producing on the same system or family, as different materials and parameters can move ever closer to a market-ready product. By iterating on the same system that will be used for the final product, quality control can be kept in-hand every step of the way, meaning there are no surprises when the first end-use production begins.

3D
Printing For Prototyping

When working with a service bureau like
Shapeways, additional expertise and access to different technology suites comes
into play for a high-quality experience every step of the way.

Shapeways’ rapid prototyping services offer:

Fast Turnaround

Our quick print turnaround times ensure that you’ll get your prototypes back faster than you would with traditional manufacturing processes.

Variety of Materials

Our wide selection of materials allows you to test your products in everything from plastic to metals.

Reliable Quality

Our high quality enables you to assess factors such as ergonomics, usability, manufacturability, and material testing.

When it’s time to move to the next phases of prototyping, a different 3D printing process and/or material may be in order to start getting into the right look and feel for a final product. Working with an experienced service partner offers helpful guidance in making these selections and moving on rapidly to the next iteration, ensuring the right choice is made at every step and keeping your project on track, on time, and looking just as you designed it.

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The post The Business Case For 3D Printing Prototypes appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

Top 10 Ways Rapid Prototyping Can Save Businesses Time and Money

Additive manufacturing has sparked a wave of innovation. The ability to translate intricate designs into tangible objects quickly and with precision is changing the way businesses operate at multiple levels. It’s not just mature companies with a wealth of resources that are reaping the benefits of 3D printing technology. Jewelers, architects, toymakers, and many other businesses that never knew they needed a 3D printing service provider are discovering how rapid prototyping can benefit them. Here are some ways Shapeways 3D printing service can get your next project off the ground.

1. Efficient use of resources

There are many steps to bringing a new product to market successfully. Your job is to see that they all get done. But you don’t have to do all of them yourself. Having a reliable partner that can shoulder some of those burdens can be a big help. A 3D printing service that can produce the prototypes needed to push your business forward will help you to use your resources to your best advantage.

2. Test the functionality of your design

You may be
confident that your great new idea will work, but you still need to determine how
well it works before committing more of your valuable resources. A working
prototype doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive and can help keep your
project on the right path. Rapid prototyping will allow you to quickly see how
all of the components of your design fit together and eliminate any design
flaws before they become too costly to repair. 

3. Test the performance of your product using various materials

How durable is your new product? Will it stand up to the stress of everyday use, or will it fall apart after just a few operations? Rapid prototyping can be employed to help you make critical decisions that will determine the usefulness of your product. Is plastic strong enough? Is metal too brittle? The answers may not always be obvious. Several models can be produced using a variety of materials that can be tested over a range of conditions to determine a cost-effective solution for your application.

4. Analyze different ideas

Is there a hole in your design? A gray area where you’re not sure how to proceed? Sometimes seemingly small details can have profound effects on your project. When the answer you are looking for is not intuitive, rapid prototyping can be an inexpensive way to test several ideas to determine the best path forward.

5. Easy to revise and reuse designs

3D printing
allows for greater flexibility with your prototypes. Data from your original
mock-up can reveal areas of concern that can then drive improvements to your
digital model. This new model can later be reprinted for other uses. You can
print as many copies of your model as you need for testing or as aids to set up
the jigs and fixtures that will be required when full production of your
product commences.

6. Reduce the time and effort needed to create models

One 3D printer can replace an entire machine shop or mold shop, as well as some of the personnel required to run them. A single component may require several different machining processes using traditional manufacturing techniques. Milling, turning, and drilling operations can all be eliminated from the process. Intricate parts that might take weeks to fabricate using traditional methods can now be turned around in hours.

7. Reduce communication errors

Reducing the number of people involved in a process also minimizes the likelihood of misunderstandings between teams. Using a 3D printing service enables you to pass your designs directly from your desktop to the printer. Eliminating potential problems that can arise when translating a digital model into a solid object can be a great stress reliever.

architecture model

8. Scale models can be used as sales presentations to investors and customers.

A working scale model can be a valuable communication tool for your sales team. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a model can close the deal. Rapid prototyping makes it easy to impress potential customers and investors alike. The opportunity for potential customers and investors to see and touch your product can go a long way toward convincing them of its merits.

9. Batch production for a test launch

A batch run
of a small number of units can be easily accomplished using rapid prototyping.
These units can then be given to potential customers to try out. Getting feedback
from your customers before making a final commitment to the expensive tooling
required to mass produce your product can be a smart way to save money. 

10.  Patents

A working prototype is not required to obtain a patent. However, your application does need to be as detailed and thorough as possible. A prototype can help you to describe your invention with far greater precision than can be achieved with drawings or written descriptions. A 3D printed model can be an affordable way to protect your property.

Find out how Shapeways can help you with your rapid prototyping needs.

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The post Top 10 Ways Rapid Prototyping Can Save Businesses Time and Money appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

How My Track Technology Uses 3D Printing for Their Remote All-Terrain Vehicle

My Track Technology (MTT) is an eco-friendly, electric remote-controlled track vehicle built to operate in extreme terrains. Its low center of gravity, resistance to the elements and autonomy make it a crucial new tool for a wide range of civilian and military applications including emergency and disaster rescues and agricultural functions.

Partnered with Shapeways, the makers of MTT were able to use 3D printing to cut substantial time and costs in their production process by rapidly prototyping designs and printing strong, end-use ready parts that can resist the elements.

We interviewed Michael Martel from MTT to find out how MTT has utilized Shapeways’ 3D printing technology to ramp up production with speed and efficiency.

What is your name and your role at My Track Technology?

My name is Michael
Martel and I’m in charge of the MTT product development.

How did My Track Technology start?

10 years ago my
father and I were discussing a product that can enhance human power but as
small as possible to be able to go where a person can walk. The main goal was
to be able to get someone that is injured out of deep forest and at the same
time bring reduced mobility
persons to extreme places.

From a sketch in 2010 (left) to a fully functional machine in 2020 (right).

What kinds of customers can MTT benefit?

Our customers are very broad. First, there is the military for rescue and material carrying. Mining for carrying material underground without any fumes and CO2 that has to be ventilated out of the mine. Wildfire suppression help, carrying water pumps and equipment. Also fat bike trails grooming, for agriculture use on wet fields or carrying a freezer in the field for fruits and vegetable harvesting. Replacing a generator on construction sites with MTT-154 onboard 2000W inverter, and much much more. 

My Track Technology rescue and rapid intervention
My Track Technology’s machine used in rescue and rapid intervention.
Photo source: My Track Technology

How did you find Shapeways?

Four years
ago one of my electronic employees bought a cheap FDM printer that he assembled himself. At that time I was very skeptical of 3D printing,
I was thinking it was only for toys and figurines. Nevertheless I let him try
some joystick parts. I was at the time building it with a laser cut aluminum
sheet, bent and welded to make an enclosed case. His part with FDM (PLA) was so successful that we
used it for our vehicle for about a year, very amazing. The problem with this
part was the surface finish, time to print and resistance to wet environments.
I was so impressed by this test that I decided
to learn more on 3D printing methods, suppliers and more. This is when I came
to Shapeways’ website and was very impressed
by the technical information and production
capabilities.

I then decided to
manufacture a couple of parts at Shapeways and I have
never been disappointed since. Shapeways is not the
least expensive but I tested many suppliers over the years and I did a lot of
cold temperature testing. Shapeways always has the strongest and nicer finished parts. 

Unless you have $100,000 or more to invest in an SLS or HP printer you will never have the quality, robustness, precision and surface finish of a Shapeways part.

What are the benefits of using Shapeways over an in-office printer?

When buying a printer you have an amazing amount of choice offered to you. The problem is to have a printer for all of the applications. The size of the parts, the surface finish, the resistance and the productivity of this printer are all to be considered. Unless you have $100,000 or more to invest in an SLS or HP printer you will never have the quality, robustness, precision and surface finish of a Shapeways part. Shapeways is a one-stop shop for 3D printing projects. They have multiple machines to accommodate all the requirements of all special projects. So for us Shapeways has been a great partner to reach all of our goals, present and future.

What are the benefits of 3D printing with Shapeways over other manufacturing methods?

Speed, cost and simplicity. When our 3D drawing is finished we don’t have to produce fabrication drawings. We just upload the 3D file on Shapeways’ website. Very simple. We also do not have to build a mold for 1 up to 50 parts. It’s very great cost saving. Later when the design is perfect we can build a mold and be confident that the mold will meet our requirements. We are also not limited to a particular shape with 3D printing, practically every shape is possible. Finally, the precision, repeatability and tolerances are better than most of the others manufacturing methods.

“The precision, repeatability and tolerances [of 3D printing technology] are better than most of the others manufacturing methods

What aspect of My Track Technology production do you use 3D printing and Shapeways for?

We are right now
moving to production and most of the parts that had previously been tested with
3D printing are now thermo or injection molded. 3D printing saves us an amazing amount of money by testing
different designs quickly. When the design is
confirmed the mold can be built with the peace of mind that this part works perfectly well.

The other 10 parts
that are needed for an
MTT-154 2020 will continue to be built with 3D
printing technologies. Up to about 100 MTT-154 units per year it totally makes
sense to print parts in Nylon. We save the initial cost of the mold and we can design parts
that are impossible to manufacture with a traditional mold.

What materials do you use?

Right now we mostly use SLS, with Nylon PA12 (Versatile Plastic), dyed black. We also use rubber like TPU to create custom grommets.

How does working with Shapeways affect the speed of your manufacturing?

In our MTT machine there are about 20 plastic parts. Last year we were in a very big rush to do a test with the US military and we had no time to build 20 molds for every single part. We saved at least 6 months (concept, drawing for molding, mold building and parts production) by 3D printing with Shapeways.

How about any cost savings?

For 20 plastic parts the average cost of a mold is $3500 * 20 = 70,000 USD. This money would have been a very big gamble knowing that we were unsure if these parts would meet the functionality, design and resistance we needed. $70K is a lot of money for a startup. It’s manageable, but $70K without any guarantee that this mold will be useful in the future is unacceptable.

Video source: My Track Technology

What is the most important aspect of working with Shapeways for you?

First, when we want
a strong part I know that Shapeways will not disappoint us. Also the website is
very easy to use, and I like the freedom to choose the shipping you want
depending on the requirement of a particular project. The quality control is
also excellent because I never return a part. Finally, the service when I need
information is excellent.

Can you share any current or future goals for My Track Technology?

The goal right now
is really to move to production and send machines to the customers that have
reserved these vehicles in the past. The product we sell right now is our
MTT-154 2020, with the possibilities to have only one unit with a trailer/sled
or with the flip of a switch multiple units coupled together for special military and industrial
applications.

Finally, we have orders for some small MTT-like robots. The frame will be built entirely in SLS printing at Shapeways very soon.

The next stage in 2021-2022 will be remote control with satellite or 4G and autonomous capabilities.

Efficient Manufacturing with 3D Printing

My Track Technology’s vast range of potential applications will see it become an essential tool for assisting humans in navigating challenging terrains and environments. Using 3D printing has made MTT’s production process much more efficient and affordable and shows how 3D printing can contribute to smarter manufacturing.

Find out how Shapeways can help with your rapid prototyping and robotics manufacturing needs.

The post How My Track Technology Uses 3D Printing for Their Remote All-Terrain Vehicle appeared first on Shapeways Blog.

Why Is The Aircraft Industry Using 3D Printing?

While as of the time of writing, the air
travel industry is facing significant difficulties in the face of
pandemic-driven reductions in flights, for many years aircraft have been
proving one of the fastest-growing applications for 3D printing around the world.
We expect that air travel will resume in the not-too-distant future — and that
will see demand for state-of-the-art aircraft on the rise. Some manufacturers
may even be using this unanticipated downtime to revamp their fleets, building
up digital inventories to supply aging aircraft and using advanced
manufacturing technologies to create the next generations of aircraft.

Let’s dive in to find out just why the
aircraft industry is using 3D printing.

A Fit
For 3D Printing

Aerospace is a unique fit for many of the
most-touted benefits of 3D printing:

  • Part consolidation
  • Lightweighting
  • Complex geometries (“freedom of design”)
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Low-volume production
  • Digital inventory

Let’s look at each of these areas to see how
the production of aircraft can make use of these benefits.

Part
Consolidation

The weakest point in an assembly is where it
has been, well, assembled. When it comes to aircraft, such a weakness could
become a point of critical failure, endangering human lives.

By consolidating multiple components of a part
into a single 3D printed build, the number of assembly points is necessarily
reduced. The unique geometries possible with 3D printing can reduce a part that
typically has dozens or hundreds of parts to few — or to one single part. With
no welding, riveting, or other fastening needed to keep the part together, not
only are SKUs reduced, but so too are potential points of failure.

Lightweighting

Every ounce of weight matters when it comes to
equipment meant to fly. Lighter-weight parts means less fuel, improving not
only the carbon footprint of a flight but also the cost to fly.

Materials innovations in 3D printing are
seeing constant improvements in different metals and polymers approved for use
in different equipment. Many of these engineering-grade materials are familiar
to those who have worked with them in traditional manufacturing — translating
these formulations into 3D printable materials is bringing their capabilities
together with part consolidation and other time- and material-reducing benefits
to create altogether lighter final parts.

Freedom
of Design

Many working with design for additive
manufacturing (DfAM) like to proclaim that the technology offers great “freedom
of design,” as complex geometries impossible to make with other manufacturing
processes are for the first time possible.

Design methods like topology optimization and
generative design are developing new shapes never before dreamed of that can be
created only by 3D printing. These complex, often lattice-like designs not only
reduce weight by including material only where necessary, but are often stronger
than legacy designs. While certain constraints of course still exist, and may
vary by 3D printing technology and material used, these are in many ways
significantly reduced from those seen in traditional, subtractive manufacturing
processes. New interior and exterior aircraft components can be designed to
replace stodgy original parts, adding both design finesse and extreme
functionality.

Rapid
Prototyping

The earliest use of 3D printing is also its original nomenclature: rapid prototyping.

Quickly going from a napkin sketch idea to a
CAD design to a first prototype — and then a second, third, and so on —
speeds up the time-to-market for new products. While traditional manufacturing
may require multiple iterations to be sent back and forth over weeks or months,
the fast-paced aircraft industry can see much faster turnaround when designs
can be created and finalized within days or weeks.

Low-Volume
Production

As large as the aerospace industry is, by
total volume the sheer number of aircraft produced is relatively small compared
to, say, automotive or appliance production.

High-value, low-volume production is a perfect
fit for 3D printing. Whereas many traditional manufacturing processes require
expensive tooling and molding to be made, creating economies of scale for mass
production, no molding is necessary for additive manufacturing. One or a few
pieces may be made at a time — including different designs on the same build
plate — with no additional molding or tooling costs. The point of inflection for
additive versus traditional manufacturing typically requires hundreds or
thousands of parts to be made before traditional techniques are more
cost-effective — and while that may ultimately reduce costs to pennies per
injection molded part, before that crossover point, 3D printing is more
cost-effective. This is especially the case when using high-value metal
powders, when material savings are imperative; 3D printing eliminates
significant waste of material as only the material needed for a given build need
be used, and much else can be recycled, rather than cutting away and wasting
material from solid blocks in subtractive manufacturing processes.

Digital
Inventory

When an aircraft is approaching the end of its
useful life, often it can be salvaged through replacing certain parts to keep
it flying. This is often done through use of physical warehouses, where these
spare parts were stored on shelves until needed. These spare parts, in most
cases, were made at the same time as the original mass-produced OEM parts, set
aside to await replacement demand for worn parts. If that demand never comes,
though, they were a waste of not only the time and cost of producing them, but
also of storing them on shelves for however many years. Worse, if that demand
comes but spares are out of stock — especially those forever out of production
— the lack of a small part may ground a plane.

Rather than physically keeping goods on
shelves, digital fabrication methods allow for storage of a design file that
can be 3D printed on demand. 3D printing a replacement part allows for only
those parts needed to ever be made — again without need for first producing
costly molding or tooling. These on-demand spare parts can also be made
anywhere with the appropriate technology, rather than awaiting OEM delays that
can all too easily run up into weeks or months.

Flying
High With 3D Printing

The production of aircraft, from prototype to spare parts, is increasingly benefitting from the use of 3D printing in the supply chain. Decentralized production, new design possibilities, and reductions in time, materials, and costs are offering new ways for aircraft to keep flying high.

The post Why Is The Aircraft Industry Using 3D Printing? appeared first on Shapeways Blog.