Nowadays technology enables us to create complete product developments without the need to manufacture any physical prototypes. By using only virtual (digital) prototypes that can be used for analysis and simulation (FEA, CFD), we can reduce development times and improve and optimise the quality and cost of the products that we develop.
Nevertheless, we like to touch, feel, probe…
When it comes to “selling” a solution or product, regardless of whether this is internally within the company or from a commercial perspective, it is very useful to have a physical prototype that we can pick up with our hands so that we can touch it, feel it and determine our response to it.
In modern and efficient development processes like the one mentioned at the beginning of the post, 3D printing is the tool which allows us to turn all that digital information we handle into “real” physical objects.
3D printing is therefore not only the most efficient means of production in certain cases (small series, complex geometry and customisation), but it is also a very powerful tool for sales purposes, marketing, etc. The final push for making one decision or another is very often down to the feelings we get when that product is in our hands and additive manufacturing is the tool which turns our digital products into reality.
At the end of the day, digital files, test results and all kinds of data can reasonably show the virtues of a development which will probably be notably faster, more reliable, lighter, etc. than the previous version and its competitors. However, aside from what the hard data indicate, we as humans also need to touch, smell and feel that product.
3D printing allows us to have those future products and ideas in our hands in record time —almost immediately. How cool is that?