ProtoCAM: Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping.

5 Reasons You Need Enterprise-Class Rapid Prototyping

So-called “click to order” rapid prototyping outlets are a dime a dozen online, and the prices they advertise are tempting. But is using one – or a consumer-grade 3D printer – the right option for your part?

Blog_Nov2014_364x330_3No matter the size of a project, every engineer and industrial designer is looking for quality, efficiency and a good price. Above all, it is essential that the finished product be exactly what is needed – and when it comes to prototyping, what is needed is inherently unique. That means a one-size-fits-all approach to additive manufacturing might not be the most effective option; there are simply too many variables in play.

Rather than a parts vending machine, you need the industrial 3D printing big boys – knowledgeable engineers who can look at the root of the project, assess the real objectives, help you spend your money wisely … and still deliver fast. Here are five reasons to skip the online-only build-and-ship shops and go with a real service bureau, like ProtoCAM.

1. Orientation matters

Rapid prototyping companies with instant online ordering usually automate part orientation for fastest build and cheapest price right out of the gate. Height is money, and a shorter Z-axis generally results in lower production costs. Unfortunately, laying a part down can also result in serious strength, accuracy and aesthetic flaws.

Determining the most appropriate build orientation isn’t something that can be done without a solid understanding of all factors involved in the project. Simply trying to get the job out the door as cheaply as possible typically results in a lowest denominator build, which often just isn’t good enough.

2. Selecting material and method isn’t as easy as it seems

With click-to-order 3D printing, consumers pick whatever build method and material looks right off a laundry list. Of course, looking right and being right can be two very different things.

Just because a final production piece will be metal, for instance, doesn’t mean a test-ready prototype needs to be metal. A plastic solution might have the correct strength and durometer for form-fit models or performance testing, and it might be available more cost-effectively and quickly. There is not an online order form out there that would tell you that.

3. Getting it right the first time

Iterations are a given when you’re talking about prototyping, but the closer you can get to a solid design on the first round, the faster you can put your project through to production. A hands-on process takes slightly longer to quote – a couple of hours rather than a couple of minutes – but a professional, human assessment helps ensure that you get the right solution the first time. There’s no swinging and missing with a service bureau like ProtoCAM. Build-to-delivery is just as fast as automated shops and, with fewer rounds and no going back to the drawing board, it’s potentially far faster.

4. You need more than what’s on the menu

Advances in engineering and industrial design are making the impossible possible every day. Fortunately, additive manufacturing is moving ahead just as quickly. Unless you’re working closely with a team of knowledgeable engineers, there’s a good chance you’ll miss the latest and greatest, and be stuck with yesterday’s technology.

For example, ProtoCAM engineers tackled the cloudiness of the standard clear finishes available in the rapid prototyping industry, recognizing what it would mean to deliver a truly clear bottle. After months of research and development work, ProtoCAM perfected a proprietary bottle finish that delivers incomparable clarity. This finish is ideal for customers who want to show close-to-final pieces or highlight the internal workings of a complex part – and it’s simply not available from click-to-quote online vendors.

5. Manufacturing is the end goal

All rapid prototyping projects have the same end goal: getting quality parts to market quickly. Prototypes are never just prototypes – they’re a step towards production –and not all geometries are possible with traditional manufacturing. That’s why ProtoCAM engineers all come from a manufacturing background and have an eye for what will be workable when it is time for final fabrication. Sharing potential design improvements and efficiencies engineer-to-engineer is just part of the package at ProtoCAM. We’re dedicated to both getting you a better prototype and a better mass production part.

Bottom line: The knowledgeable engineers and collaborative process of a service bureau like ProtoCAM can make a huge difference in your rapid prototyping project. Even if you’re highly experienced in the field, a human touch is needed to turn an “OK” result into a great one.

ProtoCAM: Excellence in Additive Manufacturing. Click here to get a quote for your prototyping or manufacturing project today.