Low Cost Functional Prototypes

Published by Tim on

Sometimes the best way to evaluate a design is to make it and physically test it. However the cost of low volume component manufacture can often be prohibitive to product development.

A 3D printed plastic rapid prototypes can help the product development and decision making processes. Questions such as, “Is it comfortable to hold?” “Can I reach the button easily?” or “Does the mechanism work as intended?” can be answered with a 3D printed prototype. White horse CAD have IN HOUSE 3D printing capabilities, so we can print plastic models that help to demonstrate the strengths, or weaknesses of the components.

Never underestimate the value of a physical prototype

Sometimes it is difficult to express in a few words and drawings how a new product will work or feel, but if you have a 3D printed prototype you can demonstrate fit, form and function with ease. Having a 3D printed prototype helps people visualise the final product and demonstrates design suitability or aids discussion for modifications.

Another advantage of using 3D prototypes is to assess the ergonomics of a design, it may look good on the screen, but perhaps its difficult to hold, or not suitable for left handed users, or perhaps it just does not feel right in the hand. The form of a component and how it feels in the hand is very subjective, so having a 3D prototype you can put in the hands of many people gives you the opportunity to get feedback from potential users that would not be possible from looking at a picture. Some of the best design suggestions and realisations come from people having products in their hands.

So what about the parts in the photo then….

All of the items in the photo have been designed and printed by White Horse CAD limited, they all have WHC embossed on a surface or cut through the entire thickness of them.

Top Centre, is a one handed bottle opener. It has a 1p slotted into the right and side and is a fully functional prototype that has opened a few bottle of drink and is showing no signs of damage. This is an example of a strong functional prototype that also allows assessment of ergonomics and feel.

Right Hand Lower Corner, is a bottle opener, with a selection of “sockets” for metric nuts. Again, it uses a 1p coin slotted in place, but this is also a functional prototype that demonstrates how strong a 3D printed parts can be. The “sockets” were included to demonstrate the accuracy achievable using 3D printing, although some adjustments had to made to the model file to ensure they came out exactly the right size.

Left Hand Lower Corner, is a “non socket” version of the one on the right. Again, it uses a 1p coin slotted in place and is also also a functional prototype that demonstrates how strong a 3D printed parts can be.

The Middle component is a keyring with 2 functional interlocking gears. this demonstrates the possible use of 3D printing for complex mechanisms.

These are all printed in black ABS, we have many other colours, including, red, white, blue, orange, green and white. We also have HiPs and Ultrat materials which are used for parts that can be used in different environments. All of the prints shown are straight off the machine with no post processing, demonstrating the level of detail that can be achieved.






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