Accelerating 3D prototyping to production

Accelerating 3D prototyping to production

3D prototyping, aka rapid prototyping, is revolutionizing design and manufacturing and speeding time to market.

Data courtesy 1

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Today, rapid prototyping is increasingly enabling digital lean manufacturing.

To keep up with pressure for faster speed to market and shorter product lifecycles, a rapidly growing number of companies are turning to 3D printing as part of digital lean manufacturing to stay ahead of the competition.

This is because new 3D printing technology advancements have helped increase the speed of production, improved mechanical properties, and contributed to lowering the cost of producing 3D printed parts.

Benefits include rapid prototyping and rapid tooling, bridge production – using 3D printing to produce low volume runs of a part before mass production using traditional methods – and other easier, faster transitions to full production.

Ultimately, with 3D printing, for the first time ever, you can embrace a technology that enables you to move at the speed of your ideas.

This article highlights some of the ways in which rapid prototyping is  transforming production and shares case studies featuring HP customers.

Rapid prototyping for faster design iteration

As we know, coming up with that big idea is only part of the story. Real innovation demands iteration. This means that designers may cycle through dozens of ideas before deciding on a final design, making the iteration process potentially time-consuming and expensive.

But with 3D printing technologies such as HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), designers have the freedom to produce multiple prototypes in the same amount of time it traditionally took to produce a single part. They can even combine a 3D print job made up of multiple prototypes and final parts in a single 3D print build.

Such freedom accelerates prototype testing and, in turn, speeds up the final product design. This is particularly advantageous for companies or internal R&D divisions needing to provide a competitively rapid prototyping service.

HP Jet Fusion industrial 3D printers, for example, can produce multiple quality, functional parts – either multiple different parts or multiples of the same part - in a single build. So, they have an even greater advantage for designers who require rapid prototyping, over 3D printing technologies that 3D print parts point by point rather than layer by layer.

With HP Jet Fusion 3D printing, your design team has the power to produce multiple functional prototypes, that behave and perform like a final part when it comes to look, feel, and function, in a single 3D print job. They’re able to use these prototypes to make on-the-spot design decisions, adapt designs, reprint, and iterate fast.

3D prototyping and rapid tooling case study:


SIGMADESIGN is a product design, development, and engineering services firm that helps clients take their products from concept to production and beyond. When one of their clients needed parts for a fruit-labeling machine, SIGMADESIGN weighed up its options.

Data courtesy 2

The problem that SIGMADESIGN encountered with using a traditional manufacturing technique such as computer numerical control (CNC) machining to make the fruit-labeling machine, was that it was too expensive, especially for short runs of complex parts. With CNC machining, they also found that there were significant costs when parts need to be changed or modified.

SIGMADESIGN knew it needed to go down the 3D printing route. But its first foray into 3D printing, using a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printer, resulted in a 3D printed part that failed to meet quality requirements as it was too porous and weak.

Then SIGMADESIGN discovered HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology.

Because there’s so little setup needed with HP MJF, prototypes can be produced quickly and economically without sacrificing the quality of the 3D printed tools, enhancing SIGMADESIGN’s rapid prototyping services.

This immediately endeared HP MJF technology to SIGMADESIGN, one of whose key principles is to "prototype early and prototype often."

SIGMADESIGN used HP MJF technology to help 3D print tools for the fruit-labeling machine, saving money and time for itself and its customer while simultaneously improving the design.

"In a traditional design cycle," says Andy Boyes, Program Manager of SIGMADESIGN, "the designer needs to account for function of the part, beginning with a prototype and then adjusting to meet manufacturability requirements. This cycle can take days or weeks."

He continues, "Reduced time to print, design freedom, and better part quality have all enhanced our design process. The ability to manufacture strong nylon parts quickly has improved our design abilities. We have made many components with HP MJF technology; in the process we have saved thousands of dollars when compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Design constraints are lifted when you are printing parts using the HP MJF technology."

Added Matt Cameron, VP of Engineering at SIGMADESIGN, "With the HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution, we could develop 3D printed tools faster and produce them in short batches, pretty much on demand."

The value of functional prototypes

SIGMADESIGN also appreciates the fact that HP MJF technology enables 3D printed prototypes and final parts with best-in-class isotropy to be made. Isotropy defines the uniformity of a part’s properties, whatever the direction in which they’re measured.

"Isotropy is important so that the designer does not need to take the time to communicate extra design intents, like where strength and dimensional accuracy are most important in part," says Andy Boyes of SIGMADESIGN.

"In other additive processes," he continues, "it is important to orient the part such that the strength is not needed between layers. In terms of strength, parts produced with HP MJF technology are not as sensitive to orientation, so less time is spent from engineering to getting the parts in hand that can be used in production. The same technology is used for initial prototypes and final production parts, the designer can focus more on the function and less on the manufacturability, because the prototype performance is equivalent to the production. This saves time and enables the engineer to focus on the 'what' and less on the 'how.'"

Read the full case study here.

Rapid prototyping to production case study

Kupol and HP Digital Manufacturing partner, Sculpteo

When creating a new product, there are often two sets of designs. One set is for 3D printing prototypes, while the other is for producing the part. Most designers only think in terms of the latter.

“When you’re developing a product, at each moment of the design, it is a final part,” said Gabriel Boutin, CEO of Syncro Innovation, an industrial design firm in Quebec, Canada, and the founder of Kupol, a new company that designs and produces bike helmets.

Kupol designed some of its earliest prototypes of bike helmets using HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, and subsequently ramped up to produce them on an HP Jet Fusion 4200 3D Printer in partnership with Sculpteo, the HP Digital Manufacturing partner, that owns the machine.

Data courtesy 3

Click image to enlarge

Data courtesy 3

Click image to enlarge

Boutin explains that not only has HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing saved him time to market, but it also has allowed him to be more creative.

"When you don’t have to think in two different ways—for prototyping and production—and focus on one thing, you allow for more creativity," Boutin says.

"With the speed of innovation and of HP Jet Fusion 3D printing, we saved at least one-third of the time compared with other methods. I can’t think of a better way to create a product." 

For companies like Kupol that have short production runs and need to produce strong or complex parts, HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing can be a fast, affordable production solution.

The HP Multi Jet Fusion technology platform allows customers to take  advantage of a rapid prototyping-to-production workflow, allowing designers and manufacturers to prototype, iterate and seamlessly transition their designs to full production on the same industrial 3D printer.

A process that took months of design iterations, re-machining injection molds, and shipment to and from factories across the world can now take a matter of weeks with HP 3D Printing.

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Footnotes and disclaimers

  1. Data courtesy: Go Proto Inc. and Ropes Edge
  2. Data courtesy: SIGMADESIGN
  3. Data courtesy: Kupol and Sculpteo