What is rapid prototyping?
Rapid prototyping is a set of techniques to quickly produce a prototype of a product or part of the product. Using 3D printing, for example, designers are able to quickly move from a CAD design to a physical model of the product.
Why speed of prototyping matters
The speed at which the prototype can be made can make a big difference in the product development process. If it takes several weeks to produce a prototype – possibly using more manual techniques to make the model – then it can be very difficult to quickly iterate in the development process. By the time the prototype is made, many decisions are likely locked-in, because it will add another big delay to create another prototype.
In comparison, with rapid prototyping, it is possible to quickly and cheaply make another model if changes are needed. In a matter of hours a new model can be produced incorporating suggestions. This can allow you to quickly iterate through a number of suggestions – trying out different approaches and building in feedback.
Using rapid prototypes to gain commitment from
Rapid prototypes are a great way of quickly gaining commitment from others. If people are unsure of who something will work or feel, it is possible to get a model quickly made. This can help, because while some people are very comfortable with CAD designs, others like to have a physical item that they can feel and interact with. Rapid prototyping can help gain the commitment of such individuals.