3D printing is much in the news right now, and yes, it’s an astonishing technology that we at REV.1 Engineering use frequently. We’re very proud to have state-of-the-art FDM and Polyjet 3D printing capabilities under roof. However, we also understand that rapid prototyping extends well beyond 3D printing.
The key word in the phrase rapid prototyping is rapid! That’s why it’s important to have a wide variety of capabilities on site. It’s also important to understand the purpose of your prototype: Do you just need a non-working model (aka: paperweight) to understand product form? Or will your prototype have moving parts to better assess function and/or better impress your investors? Or, would you prefer a prototype that can be functionally tested under simulated use conditions? Will your prototype need to be sterilized? Once we understand the purpose of your prototype, we choose the best way to create it – quickly and economically.
Often the best prototypes are created using a variety of technologies. Beyond 3D printing, our rapid prototyping capabilities include all of the following:
- Injection Molding
- CNC Machining
- Laser Welding
- MIG/TIG Welding
- Sheet metal fabrication
- Tube bending
- Wire Forming
- NiTi Heat-Setting
- Catheter melt-flow processing
- UV Bonding
- Coil winding
- Custom Assembly
To some, it may seem excessive to support such a broad array of rapid prototyping capabilities. But we know our clients’ projects benefit from access to a wide variety of technology – and the expertise our staff brings to each prototype they create. Here are five ways we go beyond 3D printing to rapidly meet the unique needs of each device:
- Rapid prototyping is critically important at the very beginning of a project, and with on site tools, it’s possible to create prototypes within hours or a couple of days. This is a huge value for clients vs. potentially long waits if components have to be sent for outside fabricating, which may take several days at best, but more likely several weeks.
- Clients may expect a part to be 3D printed, but 3D printing alone is not always the best choice. A dive into the details may reveal that the design or intended use of the prototype lends itself more to a different prototyping approach. Often a hybrid prototyping process is required. With on site access to different materials, processes and techniques, it is possible to generate significantly more refined and better-performing prototypes.
- If the goal is a structural or working prototype, 3D printing alone often does not meet the strength requirements. The benefits of a working prototype extend not only to testing, but to attracting investment as well. Rapid machined parts are often the answer, as they have better structural integrity, and a well-functioning prototype is much more impressive to a potential investor!
- Materials selection for 3D printing is limited, whereas the materials for other prototyping machinery can include almost anything. For example, if a medical device requires sterilization, 3D printing is usually not feasible, as most 3D materials cannot be sterilized.
- Even if you have an engineering print with finished dimensions or a 3D model, it can’t simply be tossed onto the 3D printer, there are always adjustments necessary to finesse the output. Expertise with 3D printing technology is a must.
In any project, prototyping happens at a feverish pace, moving quickly to get to a feasible prototype. An iteration or two per day may need to be created, and that’s why we prefer to have all our capabilities on site, supplemented by key relationships with local suppliers that can create the rare part we can’t fabricate on site within a few hours. It’s simply not acceptable to wait a couple weeks for each iteration!
If you are looking for the MacGyvers of prototyping who love the challenge of creating new parts and working devices with speed, give us a call at 951.696.3933. You can put your project on hyperspeed and go 2x Faster with REV.1 Engineering.
Eric & Phil