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3D printing technologies for prototyping and production

How to leverage additive manufacturing to build better products

Architects don’t build without modeling. They create “blueprints,” produce renderings, and build 3D models. But while these planning tools may resemble the actual building in shape, there is no resemblance in size or materials. As a result, except in the case of manufactured or modular buildings, the finished product will be the first time that real building materials have come together in exactly that configuration. That is one of the reason that architecture tends to be conservative in its rate of change. Without real-world testing, big change is risky.

Product development is different. Today’s products are designed to be manufactured in thousands or hundreds of thousands, and both parts and assembled products can be built and tested throughout the development process. That, in part, explains today’s high rate of product innovation. But it also puts a lot of pressure on the prototyping process. New products have to meet or exceed buyer expectations in a very competitive market. In many cases, their value proposition is their innovation, the fact that they are different from anything that has existed before. And they have to be developed and rolled out quickly to beat competitors to market. Smart prototyping can support all of those goals; the challenge is choosing the right prototyping processes at each point in development.

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