Detailed design earbuds.

How does 3D printing enable detailed design prototypes?

aaron pearson
Aaron Pearson May 14, 2020
May 14, 2020

What is detailed design?

By the time designers reach the middle phase of the design process, all the major details have been decided. It is now time for the designers to go through their iteration process to perfect the design. The team will learn more information about the impact of design decisions on the final product’s performance, reliability, and cost. Iterations can include both 2D and 3D models to help perfect a product’s:

• Form

• Colour

• Ergonomics

At its core, detailed design ultimately works toward a concept approval from the customer.

How does detailed design traditionally work?

Prototyping is a critical step in the design process – it ensures the design concept works the way it’s meant to, and that it’s usable. There are many kinds of prototyping, and all prototypes generally fall between the two extremes of low and high-fidelity. Low-fidelity prototypes are incomplete designs, and mainly concerned with shape, size, and general form. These prototypes are cheap and fast to make, and useful in getting the “base” design correct. High-fidelity prototypes, on the other hand, are as close to the final product as possible. These prototypes can incorporate colour and texture realism, and can be used to test functionality.


High-fidelity prototypes are more expensive and time-consuming to make than low-fidelity prototypes, and designers typically have several options to produce them. One option is outsourcing the work to model makers, which is often an inefficient process that involves back-and-forth communication and fewer design iterations. Many designers create all prototypes in-house, or have them created locally. The most common way to create a detailed prototype is with injection moulding, which can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 in the US.

What can designers do with 3D printing?

PolyJet Technology (full-colour, multi-material 3D printing) is starting to change this traditional design process. With access to 3D printing, designers can now:


      1. Keep the design process entirely in-house. Take out the extra step of outsourcing, and do away with the constant back-and-forth communication, waiting for models to be delivered, and fixing needless mistakes. With 3D printing, you can gain full control over the design process. More timeline flexibility empowers designers to try new ideas and iterate often, resulting in better products that stand out.


      2. Prototype faster and smarter. Iterating is a critical step because it allows designers to make mistakes and correct them, moving toward design freeze. Relying on outsourcing or model shops means it’s often too expensive and time-consuming to iterate more detailed prototypes, especially models that incorporate CMF. The speed and streamlined workflow of 3D printing gives designers the freedom to create dozens of detailed prototypes while cutting down on time. Create a high-fidelity prototype in less than a day (compared with one week using traditional methods), and include accurate colours and finishes with just a few clicks.


      3. Create beautiful, highly detailed models. Detailed designs help designers work towards a “golden model,” but they’re also an important aspect of stakeholder reviews. PolyJet Technology provides multi-colour, multi-material capabilities that help create prototypes that look, feel, and even function like the real thing. In just a few hours, designers can have a full-colour, realistic prototype in their hands or tested in its environment. Being able to assess the colour, texture, and ergonomics of a product means better feedback and faster approval from clients.


Interested in leveraging the power of PolyJet Technology to transform your design process? Check out the J55 – Stratasys’ multi-colour, multi-material 3D printer that fit your every design need.