Exploring the Impact of Prototyping on Product Development
Prototyping plays a crucial role in product development, serving multiple purposes for engineers. It allows them to gain approval for their ideas, ensure that their concepts meet customer requirements, verify the concept’s integrity under real-world use, and assess its manufacturability. Different types of prototypes, including injection molding prototypes, 3D printed prototypes, and cast urethane prototypes, offer valuable insights throughout the development process. To better understand the impact of prototyping on product development, Quickparts conducted surveys to gather insights from customers. Here are the key findings:
The Obvious Findings:
- 92% of respondents stated that they need to provide an initial, low-cost physical prototype for approval from marketing, the Board of Directors, or other approval bodies.
- 58% require physical prototypes for stress testing, including drop testing, hot/cold cycling, and UV testing.
- 95% use 3D printing/additive manufacturing for prototyping, while 58% utilize injection molding prototyping. Surprisingly, only 26% have used cast urethane for prototyping, possibly due to limited awareness of this low-cost alternative to injection molding.
The Not-So-Obvious Insights:
- 76% of respondents frequently make changes to features within their designs and rely on prototyping to validate these changes.
- 52% leverage prototyping to transition from low volume to high volume production over time.
- 50% acknowledge the strengths and limitations of each prototyping process and aim to be more aware of when to leverage each one.
- 54% consider immediate, midterm, and long-term requirements when deciding which prototyping method to use.
- Over 87% have encountered projects suitable for multiple prototyping processes, which often leads to uncertainty in selecting the appropriate approach.
The Head Scratchers:
- 58% of respondents require prototypes for testing purposes.
- 51% mainly or exclusively use 3D printing for prototyping.
- 35% claim that their company attempts to eliminate injection molding prototyping by relying solely on 3D printing.
- 12% reported their company completely replaced injection molding prototyping with 3D printing for a few projects.
- Over 97% acknowledge that product changes during pre-production or production result in increased costs and delays.
- Over 82% of respondents expressed a desire to save 4 to 6 weeks in their development cycle to bring higher quality products to market faster.
- However, missed changes in the production stage often prevent timely market entry, undermining the potential time savings.
- Skipping or minimizing prototyping has proven to be costly, as the savings achieved are overshadowed by the increased costs and time associated with making changes at the production stage.
- Understanding the available prototyping options at each stage of product development is crucial to controlling downstream changes effectively. Different stages may require varying levels of physical evaluation and, consequently, different types of prototypes.
- The lessons learned from injection molding prototyping, including insights into mold and molding processes, are invaluable to the production team when designing, building, and running production molds.
- Many respondents (72%) indicated that their molding projects require an annual volume of 50,000 parts or fewer. They often overlook the fact that aluminum tooling used for prototyping can support such volumes for most polymers if built with the understanding that the mold will serve both prototyping and production purposes.
- As a result of these insights, 32% of respondents felt the need to find a manufacturing partner capable of better supporting them throughout the product development process.
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