Why Rapid Prototyping Manufacturing Is an Important Step in New Product Development

Demonstration of rapid prototyping manufacturing in action

The companies of today now more than ever must rapidly get new and emerging products to market to remain competitive. Streamlining the product development process helps to quickly put new ideas into the hands of consumers, but testing remains a prohibitive limiter. The use of rapid prototyping manufacturing works to quicken the testing process and gives you the ability to improve its marketability and post-sales support.

Why Rapid Prototyping Manufacturing?

Rapid prototyping is a form of a prototype that is created with speed to represent a potential product visually, functionally, or a combination of both. Rapid prototyping manufacturing uses multiple techniques to quickly create a prototype to the satisfaction of a product development team. These techniques include additive techniques, such as 3D printing, or subtractive ones, such as CNC machining, with the goal and selection of these techniques being fully dependent on product requirements.

The use of rapid prototyping has been growing in manufacturing applications and offers a cost-effective way to save time and cut costs while maintaining quality. Concept models or visualizations to fully functional devices are all possible using one, or a mixture of, the available rapid prototyping methods now available. There are three additional advantages offered by rapid prototyping manufacturing that will help to more effectively drive product development to the finish line.

Demonstration of rapid prototyping manufacturing in action

Advantage 1: Speed Means Cost Savings Without Sacrificing Quality

As the use of the word “rapid” indicates, speed is of the essence when using a rapid prototyping manufacturing strategy. But unlike the prototyping of the past, today’s digital technology and CAD computing power can deliver a quick turnaround on prototypes without the risk of losing any accuracy or performance attributes of the product. There are several built-in attributes to the rapid prototyping process that lend high-tech touches to the building of these prototypes:

  • Modern CAD software provides simulation of designs in 3D before prototypes are built.
  • CAD designs can be electronically transmitted directly into rapid prototyping machinery. 
  • Automated checks are performed during the prototype’s creation to keep accuracy at near-flawless levels.
  • The digital-based nature of the design process streamlines communications for rapid adjustments.

The use of rapid prototyping manufacturing adds next-gen levels of precision to the testing process. This allows product developers to create complex designs without having to worry about not being able to bring the design from screen to reality. The wide variety of rapid prototyping options means there are multiple potential solutions to every prototype, with some resulting prototypes being good enough to be sold to the customer as-is.

Advantage 2: Rapid Prototyping Applications Are Expansive

Rapid prototypes provide many options for the examination and testing of a product. They can be used in any stage of the project and for any reason, including:

  • Concept models. These prototype options give designers and project planners the chance to validate the design and desired product specifications. These can be used as marketing tools for the development of a marketing strategy or to present status to stakeholders.
  • Functional prototypes. A functional prototype takes concept models to the next level through its accurate representation of what the final product will look like. This application of rapid prototyping allows designers and engineers to validate product functionality and to give them another shot at correcting the product’s shortfalls.
  • Strength of material testing. The rapid prototype is a perfect place to perform product stress testing. Doing so gives you a fast, inexpensive way to establish product performance thresholds. In turn, this data can be used to create changes in the products used, as well as to establish operational limitations for warranty and support purposes.

Rapid prototype manufacturing makes it possible to engage in multiple prototyping applications at a minimum cost or time investment. Materials used in these prototypes come with few limitations, and the ability to create working representations of a design may allow for some prototypes to be instantly shelf-ready.

Advantage 3: The Use of Rapid Prototypes Will Streamline Development

Rapid prototypes give developers the ability to quickly create a prototype regardless of the proof of concept model they seek. This capability allows product development teams to reap large benefits when using rapid prototyping manufacturing to bring a product design to life. Development becomes even more efficient when supportive 3D CAD software is being used, which enables teams to communicate quickly and to establish a productive collaborative team structure.

Maximizing the benefits of rapid prototyping manufacturing starts with shortened and agile design timelines. But instead of relying on the limited lessons learned by your team, a good practice is to leverage a wider range of skills provided by an experienced and local manufacturing partner. They can look at your project and quickly align it to the most innovative of product development steps, making the rapid prototypes you produce more effective.

The team at Pacific Research Laboratories implements a collaborative and seamless flow of information so that your project remains agile and stays on track. This way, you can be assured of getting a strong product to market faster than the competition. To learn more about our services, please visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.

How Custom Manufacturing Solutions Can Get Your Product Into Production Faster

Designers building custom manufacturing solutions.


Getting a product quickly from concept to a customer can be accomplished without cutting corners. Using a continuous improvement approach towards documenting everything going on within your project will streamline the steps required to take your product from the drawing board to the production line. Doing so will be particularly important when looking at custom manufacturing solutions, and will be instrumental in selecting a manufacturing partner that checks all of the requirements you are seeking.

Step 1: Build Improvement Cycles Using Kaizen 

Designers building custom manufacturing solutions.

This Japanese term has been applied to manufacturing for several decades and is commonly referred to as The Toyota Way. The approach stresses the importance of small changes that gradually steer a project and keep it on course by standardizing processes. When properly used, it ideally creates a culture of innovation and collaboration, while presenting proactive opportunities for the elimination of waste and project bottlenecks.

Forming the foundation of Kaizen is the PDCA cycle, or Plan, Do, Check, and Act:

  • Plan by identifying goals and mapping a path to achieve them.
  • Do check plan progress via careful implementation monitoring and make required changes quickly.
  • Check the plan by constant evaluation of results so improvements can be identified and made.
  • Act confidently using gathered data to make changes as dictated by the above steps.

The incremental improvements delivered via Kaizen will introduce a highly concise documentation process that will yield consistency and accountability. When applied to your project, you will be better equipped to manage manufacturing partner relationships, including the establishment of cross-team collaboration.

Step 2: Integrate Design Software Into Project Collaboration

Although it is very much understood that designers must talk to the project and testing engineers as well as other designers, doing so too often leads to delays. Design systems, including CAD-based software solutions, must be integrated into all core project design processes, and be able to provide rapid access to design specifications or testing results for heightened status and visibility. But it is worth remembering that this applies to your external partners as well as your internal teams.

The proper alignment of CAD resources and other design solutions to those being recommended by a manufacturing partner will shorten timelines and streamline project documentation. The integrated nature of using design tools in this way encourages collaboration to take place and cuts valuable hours off overall design and testing processes as a result. Performing these integration steps early in the project lets you quickly re-calibrate project tasks to promote fluid agility in the project timeline.

Step 3: Determine Prototype and Testing Methodology at the Start

Accurate testing of product designs must be clearly outlined even before your CAD designers get their hands on the specs. This places an appropriate design objective in front of them that removes many risk factors that can lead to a costly design overhaul. And, the documentation generated from this planning effort can be passed along easily to your manufacturing partner so they can make testing recommendations based on their own experiences.

Agile prototyping options, such as rapid prototyping, will shorten testing times and bring you closer to production at a faster rate. This prototyping feature will offer 3D-printing options that integrate into common CAD design tools or will support CNC machining options as well. And best of all, you can easily add rapid prototyping capabilities simply by choosing a manufacturing partner that offers them as a part of their engagement.

Step 4: Agile Manufacturing Means Fast and Lean Manufacturing

One of the most sought-after benefits of creating documented processes for all of the above steps is the consistency of results. With consistency comes automation options, and with automation, you gain agility. In manufacturing, especially for a new product, agility means that you limit the risk of overproduction by focusing on sales data to drive a product’s rate of production. What this also means is that you need a manufacturing partner that can support short-run and small-scale production runs.

Following this strategy keeps the project running as lean as possible, and opens up your project to different production technologies. Budget and cost planning are trimmed down, as a “just in time” production strategy removes the need to retain storage spaces for unsold items or large volumes of raw materials. The already established documentation and collaboration processes present both you and your partner with a high degree of visibility and the option to change course quickly.

Apply Logic to Custom Manufacturing Solutions

It is no secret that utilizing custom manufacturing solutions can get your product in front of an audience faster and with better quality. But in order to get there, you must first devise a concise plan on how to approach the way the product is designed, tested, and built. A local manufacturing partner will not only help you to produce your vision but will offer its own design and testing services that ensure only a product of the highest quality gets delivered to your waiting clientele.

Building a production strategy will be more effective with a valued manufacturing partner at your disposal. The team at Pacific Research Laboratories is ready to help you finalize your product. They specialize in machining and molding small plastic parts and can manufacture your already-vetted plans into life. To learn more about our services, please visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.

The Importance of Manufacturing Quality Control for the Best End Result

Manufacturing quality control in action.


You already know just how important it is to build a design and testing plan that is true to the concept you are looking to produce. But it is just as important to add a manufacturing quality control plan to help guide your project toward a more successful conclusion. Doing so requires you to develop an understanding of the underlying task that makes up an effective quality control strategy; one that leaves no stone unturned and a worry-free rollout once production begins.

Knowing That Quality Assurance Is Different from Quality Control

Manufacturing quality control in action.

It is all too common to hear the terms quality assurance and quality control used interchangeably. But these terms have two very different meanings, and it is important that you understand these differences before devising plans for your product’s quality controls.  

Quality control is more closely-related to inspecting the final product itself, while quality assurance relates to the production processes.

It is very likely that you have both ideas in mind during the design and testing stages of product development. However, the emphasis naturally shifts from quality assurance and into quality control the closer the product gets to final testing before reaching the production stage. It is safe to say that these two terms have many areas where processes intersect, meaning that you will need to fine-tune both to produce a superior quality product.

Automating and Process Scripting Simplifies Quality Controls

Automating the tasks surrounding the quality control process does more than just add cost and time-saving efficiencies into the manufacturing process. It creates scripted processes that yield stronger, more accurate products that can endure above and beyond customer expectations. The introduction of scripted and largely automated quality control processes presents manufacturing projects with several improvements to the quality of the final product.

Almost every product is designed with exact measurements, part placements, and final assembly steps all concisely laid out. Automating manufacturing processes can lead to:

  • Increased accuracy in repetition tasks to ensure a consistent final product. 
  • Reduction of issues caused by human errors.
  • Increased visibility for your project team into where potential defects may lie. For example, quickly identifying potential breaking points in products before they are boxed and shipped.

Inspecting a Product Is Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Performing a quality inspection is the fundamental pillar of a strong quality control plan. Inspections should be performed after every manufacturing stage a product must go through to be built, which ensures that a high level of quality is being maintained across the board. There are several steps that must be performed during each stage of inspection, including:

  • Measurement verification
  • Assembly examination
  • Testing in each product stage against design-specified performance requirements
  • Confirmation of product characteristics
  • Ensuring raw materials meet quality expectations

By performing these important quality control checks every step of the way, defects can be detected and addressed before they become a problem for the customer and your brand. Doing this reduces support costs due to warranty or recall issues, and creates a broader library of data that can be utilized to make precise improvements to future product lines. Performing these steps during an inspection will open up the channels of communication across all members of the production team.

Making Accountability the Norm in Your Projects

The ribbon that ties together quality control procedures and actions is the documentation of results. Recorded results lead to greater project visibility and ultimately ensure the accountability of every moving part and measurement no matter the design or production stage. It may be tempting to develop a simple accountability system, such as email chains, but these will quickly be outgrown and turn into chaos as a manufacturing project moves forward.

Instead, use the same automation tools used during the quality control process to gain a firmer grasp over task hand-offs, results, and responses. An ideal quality control accountability system will include tracking for raw material supplier performance, discovered quality issues, and will provide seamless communications. The timeliness of reporting, plus the ability to mine data to determine quality control patterns will lead to better production scheduling, improved customer service, and a capable product.

Using a Partner Leads to Superior Manufacturing Quality Control Strategies

It is no secret just how important having a strong quality control strategy can be to the successful development and production of a product. Despite this knowledge, many designers make cuts in this area in efforts to reduce costs or time, but these instead lead to opposite results. In order to maximize the efficiency of the quality control process and to maintain a sharp eye on a budget, consider adding a local manufacturing partner to your project team.

The experienced engineers at Pacific Research Laboratories apply quality control best practices to every product. This leads to an enhanced product development strategy that yields superior products. To discover for yourself how our services align with your project requirements, please visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.

What Is the Medical Product Development Process?

Illustration of a typical medical product development lab.

Constructing a medical product is not an easy task, and will add several additional steps to your project outside of those typically needed with non-medical products. The idea of medical product development will be the same as any other product on a fundamental level, but there are additional goals that need to be met to gain the necessary approvals for full-scale manufacturing and distribution to medical practitioners.

The Birth of an Idea: From Concept to Risk Analysis

Illustration of a typical medical product development lab.

If you are reading this, you probably have an idea for a product that could potentially perform a valuable task in a medical setting. But there are a few important tasks that must first be performed before finding a manufacturing partner to bring your product to life:

  • Define the market fit for your product, including its intended customer, cost entry points, and its potential for being accepted in a clinical setting.
  • Determine all regulatory aspects for the product, including testing, certification, and medical classification requirements.
  • Formalize and execute a comprehensive risk assessment plan.
  • Identify similar products on the market, as this can lead to quicker certifications and reduced clinical trial requirements.
  • Conduct a financial viability study that considers the costs associated with meeting regulatory standards as well as design and production costs.

Using this shortlist as a guide, you will gain a realistic idea of your product’s potential place in the market. A comprehensive idea around any testing or regulatory requirements and their associated costs will also result from performing the listed steps. This gives you the information needed to perform an in-depth risk analysis, which will either push your project forward or keep it on the drawing board for further work on its concept and purpose.

Align Product Verification and Validation Tasks to Medical Quality of Standards

Although customer needs will still drive the initial design and functionality of a medical product, the increased scrutiny of getting a product through clinical trials adds new layers to the project’s design stage. All steps of the design process must be conducted consistently and transparently, following a circle of design, development, and review. And, all of these processes must adhere to strict quality standards.

As with the design and development of general consumer-based products, holding to a high level of quality standards is necessary. However, the primary tasks of product verification and validation will differ slightly due to the higher levels of scrutiny that medical products must undergo. Here are some examples of each verification and validation as they apply to the increased due diligence necessary for medical certification:


Establishing viability and quality standards of medical products starts with verifying your ready-to-be-tested design against the engineering design specifications (EDS) created during its conceptual stage. This involves confirming that features operate as expected and can be documented and applied to the next stages of testing.


In this step, the final product design or prototype will undergo validation against both the EDS and the expected user requirements. An audit trail is extremely important in this step, as this is where the product’s properties are closely examined and its final design outcomes are compared to the conceptual and desired customer outcomes. It is here where prototypes come into play and are exhaustively tested and evaluated in clinical trials.

You must perform a series of scripted and concise quality control checks throughout the design process, regardless of whether your product is medical or not. The audit trail of design and testing will lead to an improved prototype which will, in turn, give you more realistic performance attributes, making your product a better product. This audit trail will also provide the precise information required by medical regulators that can be used for its final certification.

Build, Distribute, and Support the Final Product

Once you have reached the point where there are no more tests to run and have passed clinical trials with flying colors, the time has come to get your product out to customers. Before you begin to manufacture your product, you will need to have a marketing plan in place. But unlike other types of products, medical product marketing must be backed up by data and cannot make exorbitant claims. Doing this builds truer customer relationships and mitigates your risks and future liabilities.

Seeking a contract manufacturer that specializes in ground-breaking products is ideal. Also ideal is finding a partner that offers short-run and small-scale manufacturing options. This adds an extra element of quality to your product while keeping inventory at a minimum. And, when the contract manufacturer can offer design and development services of its own, you may find improved ways of building your product that you never before considered.

A Manufacturing Partner Simplifies Medical Product Development

Producing a medical product introduces layers of complexity that must be carefully managed. The project must be run with accurate documentation auditing in mind, and the design must be carefully tested to ensure that it can get past clinical trials in a breeze. But before you invest time into your project, partner with an experienced, all-inclusive white-glove manufacturing partner that can present volumes of experience and industry know-how to guide your project to a successful conclusion.

Partnering with the experienced manufacturing team at Pacific Research Laboratories can eliminate many of the early errors that can lead to costly project overruns. We use our experience in small-scale manufacturing and design to help certify, test, and produce your product as needed to meet the expectations of your medical customers. To learn more about our services, please visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.

3 Turnkey Contract Manufacturing Principles to Understand Before Hiring a Production Team

Illustration of turnkey contract manufacturing fitting a project.

Turnkey contract manufacturing is a process that offers a full-service option to the already popular contract manufacturing model, giving businesses the ability to outsource multiple pieces, or the entirety of a project, to a selected manufacturing partner, including crucial design or prototyping tasks.

The benefits of turnkey contract manufacturing include alleviating the time and cost strains of a large in-house project. A contract partner has the experience and staffing on hand to apply lessons learned immediately to your project. Their resources reduce risks while enhancing support options, ultimately delivering products faster to end-users. But before you hire a production partner, it’s helpful to understand three fundamental principles that form the foundation of turnkey contract manufacturing.

Core Principle 1: Project Tasks Must Be Borderless and Synchronized

Illustration of turnkey contract manufacturing fitting a project.

Collaboration should be central to a relationship with a chosen contract manufacturing partner. While turnkey is inherently a full-service operation, communication is essential to any project’s success. When interviewing potential manufacturing partners, hone in on potential partners that also see collaboration as crucial and demonstrate that their values match yours.

Establishing a solid and open communications process will reduce the time it takes to make collaborative design changes or respond to a changing marketplace. This intercommunication optimizes production cycles and encourages fluidity and accountability in all parties involved in the project. Emphasizing collaboration with a manufacturing partner will streamline testing, prototyping, and production, reducing risks associated with misaligned expectations.

One essential quality in a turnkey manufacturing partner is their ability to provide a project model that integrates software design tools, testing prototypes, and other development tools that test and analyze results. The integration of these tools is ideally leveraged with rapid prototypes or 3D-design simulation models. The data from these results will be instrumental in making accurate determinations for needed feature enhancements and marketing strategies.

Core Principle 2: Add Project Agility Using Single Points of Contact

Maneuverability means that any manufacturing project must rapidly pivot with market conditions without sacrificing reliability or quality. A turnkey contract manufacturer can help build relationships with customers, leveraging feedback to nourish product success. 

An experienced turnkey contract manufacturer can help build a lean approach into your project design, minimizing the turnover time for implementing changes. Promoting project agility, from design to final distribution, requires seamless and focused contact points for managing customer feedback. By funneling all project communications through one point of contact, who then assigns the appropriate team members, companies fulfill requests efficiently. Organizing the process for managing customer feedback will improve response times and quality. 

Core Principle 3: Quality Controls Are Improved While Costs Are Reduced

Full-service should never mean sacrificing quality for convenience. The addition of an experienced turnkey contract manufacturer should set the bar higher for quality. Improved levels of communication throughout the project process, and the high level of design and production experience exhibited by the right partnership form a winning combination for establishing efficient quality controls.

The extra sets of experienced eyes on digital 3-D designs will ensure a product includes advanced quality controls during fabrication. That quality is founded on the ability to craft and test rapid prototypes and implement recommended corrections. Quality control teams and processes are built into turnkey services. A turnkey manufacturing partner’s industry experience provides resources and proven solutions that serve to bring your product to market with high confidence in quality.

Ensure Success By Using Turnkey Contract Manufacturing

A turnkey contract manufacturer will offer more than just production or distribution services; they will provide a complete array of services from design to quality control. Companies can select what services to use and when—ensuring success with supported communication and collaboration. Choosing a turnkey manufacturing partner that demonstrates the values discussed above will improve project agility, offer top-notch quality controls, and reduce development and support costs.

As a proven U.S.-based manufacturing partner, Pacific Research Laboratories provides turnkey contract manufacturing services no matter what stage your project is at. From design to distribution, our team of experts will deliver your product to its fullest potential. To learn more about our services, please visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.

What is Contract Manufacturing? Definition and Applications for Your Product

Image illustrating the contract Manufacturing definition

The contract manufacturing definition is straightforward: it is when one company hires another to produce a product. What is decidedly less clear is how to apply this to your unique project. As with most things in life, even the simplest definitions can quickly branch out into complexities that threaten to trip you up. However, you can gain a firmer grasp on what contract manufacturing can provide for you by reviewing the answers to some commonly asked questions.

Is Contract Manufacturing Considered a Form of Outsourcing?

Since contract manufacturing involves one party reaching out to a manufacturing company to produce an item to spec, the answer to this is yes. The process starts when a business has created and tested a product to the satisfaction of its internal stakeholders and investors. They then reach out to a manufacturer that offers contract production services, ideally doing so exclusively, using the design specifications to produce the items.

Contract manufacturers can offer many attractive aspects not available to do-it-yourself or on-demand manufacturers. Discounts on materials, the ability to provide rapid prototypes to assist your final testing, and design assistance are all beneficial elements offered by an ideal contract manufacturer. These benefits gain steam when a localized manufacturer is chosen, which makes communications and distribution easier, and adds the “buy local” marketing aspect.

What Additional Attributes Should a Contract Manufacturer Possess?

Image illustrating the contract Manufacturing definition

Signing a contract with a manufacturer makes them an important business partner and a driving element of success for your project. It makes sense then to dive deeper into all that this partner provides to your project—and to understand their demonstrated success with similar projects—before signing. After all, this is a relationship that you will need to continuously monitor and manage to assure your customers and investors that only high-quality versions of your products make it to market.

With that in mind, here are several important items to keep in mind while selecting your manufacturing partner:

  • They should be a stable presence in the marketplace, including a high-value reputation and possessing sound financials.
  • The production facility must be well-managed and organized with an emphasis on safety and cleanliness.
  • Their quality standards must align to ISO certifications.
  • They must have the ability to quickly adapt production runs to align with customer demands.

Additionally, it is important to note the quoted costs by your manufacturing partner and to ensure that overruns or hidden costs cannot be added to the original estimate. This allows you to maintain consistency in the prices you quote customers and limits unexpected financial liabilities down the road.

Why Should I Use Contract Manufacturing for My Project?

The reasons for choosing to utilize the benefits of contract manufacturing will vary from project to project. However, several of the core advantages will be consistent regardless of application. Lowering of expenses is one, due to the competitive nature of manufacturing, and the obvious financial gain of not having to build or operate your own manufacturing facility. This removes much of the financial burden of maintaining ISO certifications or skilled staff.

Contract manufacturing allows your team to remain focused on the evolution of your project and its marketing. The ability to harness a U.S.-based manufacturing partner will limit cost points that international production could lead to, as well as minimize the effects of trade and distribution issues. A U.S.-based partner will present you with a quality assurance that better aligns with the features of your design.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Taking this Route?

There are several examples that can quickly fill the cons column when weighing the advantages of partnering with a contract manufacturer. But instead of listing the most common ones here, take note: the biggest drawbacks of outsourcing production, such as loss of control over quality or volume, can all be mitigated during your search. Refining your search process will instantly re-mediate almost all potential drawbacks, except for one potentially important area: your public relations.

One of the biggest drawbacks to outsourcing manufacturing is the potential of your brand as being perceived as a contributor to job displacement. Avoiding this hot-button topic can be minimized by choosing a local manufacturing partner that has a vested interest in fueling the business success of U.S.-based businesses, as well as those operating in the immediate geographic area. Staying local during your partner selection process will be a marketing point to be proud of.

Can This Contract Manufacturing Definition Suit Your Project?

The most accurate statement to make about the definition of contract manufacturing is that it can be molded and adapted to almost any project. This makes it necessary for you to know exactly what you need to bring your project from the drawing table to the customer. But sometimes filling in all of the gaps can be especially challenging. Thankfully, there is a local contract manufacturer that can lend guidance in each area to help get your project off to a running start.

Pacific Research Laboratories provides a complete team of experts to drive your product to its fullest potential. From the earliest stage of design to completion, our team works with you as a partner. This is because our greatest accomplishment is the success of our customers; successes that drive innovation. To learn more about our services, please visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.