Many manufacturers have now started using rapid prototyping services based on 3D printing. Usually though 3D printing is outsourced to a company who specialize in rapid prototyping services with 3D printers and models are therefore only used occasionally in the design cycle for a new product.
Integra Products Ltd though, a window dressing solution company in the UK, have decided to bring their rapid prototyping services in house and revolutionize the way they work with investment in a new ZPrinter 3D printer of their own.
The ZCorporation device though cheaper than many 3D printers on the market needs to be in regular use still to make it a viable investment. Having said that it can cut costs drastically for those using hand made models for their rapid prototyping services that take time and more manpower. Now rather than sending a design to a prototype department Integra Products’ designers can simply click print from their design software.
Model making based rapid prototyping services don’t always show up all design problems, as they aren’t exact, whereas 3D printed models are. Integra report that the biggest saving of having their own 3D printer is where in the past they would often have to set up tooling before discovering problems with the first samples: this typically took 40 days, with 3D printing samples can be made in hours: in fact Integra often print 25 models each night ready to be used the next day.
As well as saving time Integra of course save money, previously the external rapid prototyping company they used that took 7 days to deliver samples cost around 10 times more. Having to cancel production having set up tooling would cost thousands each time.
Integra use many more models as a result of them being cheaper, including during their concept phase where models, which can be made in full color and with a similar weight and texture to a potential product, can be shown to customers to get feedback. Mainly selling B2B the fact they even have this cutting edge technology is enough to impress customers but the fact that those potentially making hugely valuable orders get to have input means that Integra can come up with the ideal project that the customer feels some ownership of meaning they are much less likely to go elsewhere.
When preparing to start selling and marketing new products models are also made and sent around the company prior to the first units being ready for sale. These models mean that people planning marketing, those going out to make sales, often these are advance sales, and even those offering customer service can see a new product in advance and get a better understanding of it than a on screen 3D rendering would allow.
Integra also save a lot of time and money by using print outs of parts to make molds; the molds would otherwise have to be made by hand: a long and difficult process where accuracy is difficult to achieve. With these molds 6 weeks can be cut off the design cycle time, often vital to be first to market with a new concept.
Integra have even used the 3D printing services they have to cut down the materials used in finished products by testing as many prototypes as needed. This is better for the environment and of course saves them yet more money, all of these savings meaning the advantage can be passed on to customers with lower prices.