The following is an excerpt from our new ebook, Product Prototyping: Getting it Right the First Time. To download the full guide, click here.

Rapid Prototyping Vs. Computer Aided Design

The most obvious and immediate method of visualizing your product is to create a Computer Aided Design (CAD) model. Many of today’s high-end CAD packages will quickly produce a three-dimensional representation of your idea to scale and to very high tolerance. The computer packages can also be set up to apply the properties of different materials to the device and simulate the effects of different engineering properties. To help you understand the visual representation of the product, the CAD program can be used to render them in photorealistic shades. You can examine the effects of stress and strain on your product and tweak it to remove areas of concern. You can render the model to look like the intended device, complete with markings and representations of switches and workings. You can apply pictures of visual elements, such as user interface screens and displays to enhance the appearance of the product. The one thing you can’t do is hold it in your hands. But this issue can be overcome with the advent of a new subsection of prototyping known as rapid prototyping.

Rapid prototyping is a newly established process where a full-scale model of the device or product is manufactured out of a polymeric material in a very short time period. While a plastic version of a product that is designed to be fabricated in another material, such as metal, may not have the same properties, the fact that the designer is able to hold an exact-sized article goes a long way to verifying the design. Rapid prototyping is an important tool and is now available in various guises and formats, so picking one to meet any budget is possible. The process of creating a prototype device has been made more flexible by rapid prototyping.