The attractions and benefits of using rapid prototyping as a foundational element of product development are self-evident. A well-designed CAD rendering of a product can be quickly converted into a physical format for closer scrutiny and tests key production ideas such as material types and overall appearance. There are, however, some potentially negative aspects within the prototyping process that could threaten to derail your project.
It’s necessary to keep in mind certain control aspects when weighing rapid prototyping pros and cons for your products. Developing and proving out a test plan before starting work will help you to build an ideal model for what rapid prototyping needs to provide for your products. Establishing these ideals starts with looking at a few distinct characteristics of the rapid prototyping process. When these are in place, you will find that the cons list shrinks to almost nothing.
Achieving a Balance Between Strong Quality Control and Speed
The word “fast” in manufacturing can have many meanings. Unfortunately, most of these meanings invoke thoughts of shoddily produced goods or incomplete product designs. Getting past these negative connotations, especially when describing a process with the word “rapid” in it, will likely get you skeptical glances. Fortunately, there are ways to achieve a balance between speed and perfection, and it all starts with the establishment of a strong quality control process.
A common “miss” in fine-tuning the quality control processes involved in the creation of rapid prototypes is that the products are designed to spec. That means that any manufactured prototypes will also be built to spec. The miss comes from a lack of vetting during the design phase. Often, the eyes needed to monitor the design process are noticeably absent, leading to lost time and revenue due to a flawed product landing in the prototyping queue.
Lending a set of experienced eyes to your quality control process will keep your project on target to meet its timelines. Engineering consultants will provide a deep-dive analysis into the product as it’s designed, providing feedback and design inputs that are accurate and constructive. They will lend their in-depth level of knowledge around how to execute a successful rapid prototyping phase, keeping your project on track by ensuring a better quality control process from start to finish.
Minimize Costs Through an In-Depth Product Analysis
Cost overruns are far too common during the design and development stages of a manufacturing product. Design teams can become fixated on deadlines and the demands of upper management, which may be distracting enough for them to overlook a better way of creating the product. Certain characteristics of the prototype, such as its intended functionality, type of material, or its finish, can easily escape the analysis that project managers perform with a cursory glance.
Reigning costs starts with implementing a set of product analysis controls that when met, ensures timely delivery of the product and rapid creation of a prototype. Having concise analytic monitoring in place from the start limits the cost overruns caused by excessive development or misunderstood project objectives. These in turn help your rapid prototypes live up to their name by being created quickly and accurately.
Involving an external engineering team that can present you with multiple designs and business options can take away the distractions caused by being fixated on creating a prototype. They can help to avoid a lack of in-depth analysis, which can lead to you being limited in your rapid prototyping options. Also, they can work to iron out any developer misunderstandings of what the customer wants, ensuring that your prototypes are highly accurate replicas of the final product.
Gain a Deeper Understanding of the Project Through User Involvement
A key factor in slowing down your ability to generate accurate representations of a product is user confusion. In some cases, the rapid prototypes that are created are so close to the final product that a customer may think that is what’s being handed to them. On the surface, this seems like an innocent mistake, but it could have long-term ramifications on your product’s salability. Not only could it be missing important and expected features, but customers may grow attached to a feature that is only included on the prototype but not on the final product.
All that makes it crucial for the customer to be involved from the design phase forward. This keeps their expectations realistic and avoids uncomfortable situations with the rapid prototypes you display. They can also request changes as the design process moves forward, avoiding costly delays and rework. Although this may seem like a potential drain on your time, this is another area in which an outside team of manufacturing experts could lend a hand.
Need Help Navigating Rapid Prototyping Pros and Cons?
Sorting through all of the potential issues that could arise when developing a rapid prototype will be an incomplete process at best. Without a dedicated team to ensure a high level of quality control in the design and production of your product, you leave yourself open to time and budget overruns that can cause a customer to back out of a project before it hits the ground. So how do you avoid project delays and cost overruns in your rapid prototyping process?
You need an experienced team of engineering and manufacturing experts to guide you through the creation of an effective quality control process. The expertise in running established quality control protocols in all areas, from product design through product marketing, will ensure you of the highest quality, best product representation possible using rapid prototyping.
Getting answers to the question of whether or not rapid prototyping is right for you starts with quality control. The experienced engineers at Pacific Research Laboratories have proven quality control strategies that cover you from design to production, ensuring that your prototypes and final products deliver on the expectations your customers have placed on them. To learn more about our services, please visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.
PRL is a full-service product development company that specializes in all aspects of production, from design to product fabrication and prototyping. Our experts are here to guide you through the full product development process, including the ideation, design, creation, and management of your product idea.