Bringing ideas to life might be described as a journey, not a destination. Any engineer or designer who creates prototypes on a regular basis can attest to the truth in this commonly used mantra. And while the journey to end product can vary widely depending on the result you are looking to achieve, using the right tools to help assist in the development process can both improve outcomes and enhance the overall creation experience.
A designer will create a prototype to enable their teams to get tangible feel for what they are thinking in terms of new products or product iterations. This evidence can be helpful in communicating the perceived value or impact to the bottom line. This is why trusting a machine can build your idea quickly, with materials that emulate the end product and test in an environment that closely resembles real-life use is key. To perform in ways that have impact means that the prototyped product must closely resemble the actual product, and so the fundamental differences between prototype and product must be mitigated as much as possible. To help our readers bridge the distance between prototype and product, we reached out to a few professional designers and engineers to get an understanding of the journey that a one might take as they venture into commercial design and prototyping.
We sat down with Marc McCauley, CEO and Lead Designer, and Jesse Hahne, President and Lead Industrial Designer from the Center for Advanced Design (CAD), about their experiences with rapid and advanced prototyping solutions for business and commercial purposes. Jesse has collaborated with some of the top on-road and off-road vehicle manufacturers in the United States and has been awarded many patents in his 20+ year design career, and Marc has over 20 years’ of experience in all aspects of new product development and manufacturing. He's also brought hundreds of products to market in the medical device, consumer and power sports industries.
Hi guys, thanks for your time today. Would you mind sharing with our readers what you do on a day-to-day basis at CAD, a company that helps other companies bring their product ideas to life?
Sure, in the day-to-day we really do whatever it takes to serve our customers, and help them shape their ideas into designs that are viable for presentation. Then there is the business aspect of managing things. Since we are a small company of 6 designers our prototyping rolls are very broad, we handle everything from the decisions on capital equipment to print set up and finishing. We also take care of routine maintenance for all equipment along with managing consumables. We do everything and anything that needs to be done.
What are some of the infrastructure requirements a designer or engineer might consider when looking at setting up production of their prototype in-house? How does the prototype development, creation and validation lifecycle play into these considerations?
The first two things that come to mind are build size and material. Answering these two questions will help direct you to the right machine. Obviously budget comes into play as well but size and material are a great place to start. We chose the F370 because of its large build envelop coupled with vast material selection. The added bonus was no need for shop air or any special power requirements. The reason we chose the FDM process was the consumable cost, ease of post processing and finished strength of the parts.
Aside from the obvious, cost, space, etc. do you have any special considerations or lessons learned from your own journey that you might share with others who are just starting to consider purchasing a system to create rapid prototypes in their organization? Were there any surprises from your experience you'd like to share?
We learned a hard lesson early on by getting lured in by the home brew / entry level system marketing. The low machine cost and low consumable costs were too good for us to pass up when we were first starting our company. Once purchased the lesser systems had us constantly trouble shooting, dealing with erroneous builds, with little to no support from the suppliers all to end up with a subpar part that we were embarrassed to share with our customers. We learned our lesson very early on, you need a heated build chamber, you need support material and a wash out tank, and you need tuned material from a industry leader, like Stratasys, if you plan to make money from your printed prototypes.
You can learn more about how CAD builds professional prototypes by watching the video below. To learn more about our F123 Series printers, and how they can improve professional prototyping performance, click here.