3D printing and Rapid Prototyping. Can you see one of THESE in your office?!

It’s only a matter of time until 3D printing – or ‘Rapid prototyping’, will be a standard tool in our Offices.

A 3D print of an engine part Develop 3DIn the past a Designer would have explored their concepts by creating a physical model of the item they were designing. They would have created Technical Drawings from the model only once the design was complete.

Sadly this has method has fallen into obscurity as the World wide web and Computer Aided Design (CAD) allow many companies that span the globe to collaborate on projects electronically.

Physical prototypes are no longer practical.

We just can’t wait for a paper, card and plastic model to be sent around every office in the world that is collaborating on a project, and no-one wants to pay for multiple models to be made.

3D ‘Digital Prototyping’ is going some way to mitigate this, but even looking at 3D models on a computer screen can be misguiding. However most people can get an impression of scale from a physical model, even if they aren’t trained designers.

3D Printers, at an affordable level.

3D printing – ‘Printing’ a physical version of a 3D computer generated Model could be the answer. The same 3D model file could be printed at multiple offices worldwide, with predictably similar results. This would be just like printing a 2D drawing set from a PDF or DWF today.

Related Post:  The Medieval Roots of ‘Setting Out’.

Until recently, the cost of a 3D printer has been the main sticking point. This is poised to change, as announced by the team at Develop 3D who recently posted this article, showing off the new  ZPrinter 150 and 250 range.

The Z corporation ZPrinter 150 and 250 3D printer


When does 3D printing become ‘Rapid Prototyping’?

3D printing could allow many people in many different offices to have exactly the same model for reference, produced quickly and cheaply. However, 3D printing could be used in the design development process as well.

3D models could be used by engineers to test out the fit and function of parts before they are machined. There is some hope that in the future this could become true Rapid prototyping, with real parts created from the actual materials being created in our own homes – Replicator anyone?

Star Trek replicator


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