Five Things You Need To Know About Rapid Prototyping
Or maybe it’s not what you, or perhaps what your customer ‘thought’ the final part would be, based on what was communicated?
As a result of receiving a final part with an error, have you ever been faced with stress and additional expenses... without the luxury of time needed to come up with a winning solution?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions (and if you haven’t, then you might just have beaten the odds!), then you do need to have a rapid prototype (rp) of your designs to prevent these possible scenarios.
Prototypes allow you to verify, test your design for fit and function and detect costly errors before it goes to the point of having to find enough time and money to ‘fix it’.
RP parts can immediately communicate design and intent without language barriers, whether it’s to someone at your desk, your customer across the boardroom table or to a manufacturer perhaps over seas. Prototypes remove the need for guesswork.
Be sure to keep in mind while one process may appear to be cheaper, it might not give you the type of part you really need. If that’s the case, it doesn’t make it a bargain at all if it breaks or if you have to spend money to make another one to replace it.
This is why it’s important when reviewing multiple quotes that you are also comparing ‘apples to apples’. Not only will these help you determine the best value for the money it will also help you to make sure the process you are being quoted is the type of part you need and serves its purpose.
Main check points for effective quote comparisons:
- Are the RP processes being compared the same process? (e.g. SLS to SLS)
- Are the parts being built at the same layer thickness (e.g. .004” to .004”)
- Are they quoting using the same material?
- Are they quoting in the same currency? (USD or CDN)
- What are the shipping costs? (you need all your numbers)
- Timing: can they deliver to meet your needs?
Referring to all prototypes as ‘SLA’ is similar to calling all facial tissue, ‘Kleenex’. When people need a facial tissue many will ask for a ‘Kleenex’ when they would also accept a Scotties or any other brand name facial tissue.
SLA is the name of one of the RP processes available (like the brand ‘Kleenex’). SLA uses its own set of materials and own unique process that can provide you with parts that differ from other methods and may or may not give you what you need. For example, you might want a part in nylon, however the ‘SLA’ process cannot provide you with that.
Another term commonly used incorrectly is 3D Printing. Again, this term explains a specific method used to produce a Rapid Prototype. You may require a rapid prototype, but not necessarily produced using 3D Printing technology.
The term Rapid Prototyping (RP) is the broad term for the various processes that are available (like facial tissue).
By understanding the terminology, it will help you to better determine what kind of final RP part you want as well as help you to compare quotes more effectively.
By filling in your relevant information, uploading files and specifying the process you need, their programs can formulate a quote for you instantly.
However, by doing this, specifically with the SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) process it can turn in to a disadvantage and possibly keep you from saving money.
With the SLS process many parts are often built at the same time as the material is laid out over the entire area of the building bed regardless of what is being built. Fully utilizing all the material and building area can benefit you by saving money in two ways:
1. Custom quotes can be based on ‘building with other in-house builds’. This means that based on what is coming up in the schedule, you can possibly offset your costs by sharing the bed. On-line instant quotes are automated and therefore are not dealing with actual builds slated to run and cannot effectively factor these savings in.
2. Building multiples of your part or parts. Whether they are multiple identical parts, various versions or many very different files, often there can be a price break on volume or quantity. When obtaining an instant quote, you most likely won’t know where that point is, as the quote is an automated calculation, giving you only what you asked for. With a custom quote an RP technician can specifically look at your needs/files and from there help to determine how you can bring your per piece costs down.
Ultimately, all forms of rapid prototyping will use an STL file, but the extensions of IGES and STEP are also acceptable as they can be converted by the RP house into an STL file. In some cases, a native file can be supplied and the conversion can then be made into an STL file (consult with your supplier). If you do not have a 3D file, your next step is to have the drawings drafted by a mechanical engineer or designer.