At the 3D PRINTING phase of the design process, the product does not necessarily have to look or perform exactly as the final product since only the core functionality needs to be tested.
With a prototype, various features and functions that both engineers and designers seek to achieve can be tested in real-world applications.
How Prototyping Has Been Used
You might be amazed to know that the renowned British inventor, James Dyson had to go through over 5000 prototypes within a period of five years before finally arriving at the final version of the bagless vacuum cleaner. This example throws more light on the importance of prototyping in product development.
A very large percentage of possible failures are eradicated during the series of prototypes. Moreover, at this stage, both engineers and designers do not only get to test what they know about the product but also realise what they did not know and would completely overlook.
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Today with the advancements in 3D printing, we are in an era of rapid prototyping in which an engineer, a designer or anybody at all with access to 3D printing can move from an idea to a fully working prototype in a matter of hours.
3D printing being an additive process of manufacturing has a known benefit over subtractive manufacturing processes like CNC machining since less material is wasted in 3D printing.