Prototypes are best known for the message they communicate. They show us: "this is what it could be like.” Prototypes guide critically productive conversations that lead to the discovery of the design-solution needed or desired.
When modifications are indicated, a prototype helps designers find and evaluate the solutions while verifying those changes will meet with expectations of clients and customers.
1. Understanding and Observing "Real World" Applications
There is great value to be found when a designer or engineer spends significant time in end-performance settings for any device. This is really the only way to see first-hand how the device will be used in the field.
Design engineers may learn about details such as what cleaning processes are being used on the finished device. They may need to understand what the device must undergo that can have unintended results with materials or other chemical additives.
Seeing and hearing how the device sounds during application - can prepare the designer for building a more realistic prototype that meets customer’s requirements and better-accommodates end-users.
The designer can also identify unique features previously unfamiliar to the customer but incredibly beneficial to the end user. Integrating features into the prototype delivers opportunities to better analyze simulations so as to better determine how that feature will enhance the user's experience.
2. Designing for Manufacturing and Assembly
The goal is to deliver smooth transitions from design through full production. It is to prevent potential manufacturing issues early-on and as quickly as possible.
Design for manufacturing involves designers, engineers, questions and answers, manufacturing, procurement and sales from the very beginning of every project.
This collaborative approach supports consistent communication. Collaborative approaches look at the project-feasibility, proof-of-concept, design as well as development for verification and validation.
Designing for Assembly Lines
Careful consideration of the assembly process during prototyping is critical. Without this it becomes highly-likely that manufacturing will be more expensive.
A thorough examination of a prototype can reveal something needs to be added to the design to accommodate a torque requirement during the assembly process.
The design engineer will quickly incorporate the design modification. They will make a new prototype with the necessary change and display this to the customer for approval.
3. On Collaborations with Machinists
Quality prototyping means that machinists are a design engineer’s best friend. The machinists own critical knowledge of the machines on the manufacturing floor. They understand what the machines abilities are, and they offer invaluable feedback about design manufacturability.
A machinist’s pronounced familiarity with tooling, production machines and assembly - renders them essential as a resource for ideas on how to modify the design to accommodate manufacturing capabilities. Work-around's can be found that meet all customer requirements.
4. How to Use Prototyping Technology
Prototyping technology continues to improve while dropping burdensome cost. Printers making 3D solid plastic objects from a digital model can be used to create a nearly complete, complex prototype part in hours without any tooling. Avoid the oversight made by some design engineers. Some engineers fail to show the prototype to the machinists for soliciting critical function feedback.
Machinists need to assess the device for tooling or fixture needs that can prevent costly problems that can be avoided.
5. Prototype Production Runs
The knowledge gained from pre-production of precision injection molded components bridges the gap between prototyping and manufacturing while streamlining the production processes.
Discovering issues before the plastic component moves into full production means the design engineer has time to make the design modification.
Information source: MD&DI September 2012 issue titled “Five Prototyping Tips to Reduce Cost and Time to Market”