Manufacturing throughout the Product Life Cycle From Prototype to Production
What considerations must be made in the early stages of a design, in the move to low-volume and mass serial production?
In the drive to accelerate new product development and time to market, the pressure to validate a design can be intense. With a prototype of a product or component, designers’ finally move designs from the screen to physical objects that can be handled. Does it fit? Will it function as intended? Can a 3D printed part be manufactured by injection moulding? And - in the case of prototype products, rather than parts - what might potential customers think of it?
But the pressure to prototype features or design elements, focus on the resulting end product can be lost. Aim for a prototype, and that’s what you’ll get - a prototype, and perhaps one of several as the design is refined.
Increasingly, smart manufacturers - and their design teams - are looking ahead, past the prototyping phase of the product design process, and are thinking in terms of the end product and its required performance characteristics. The objective: prototypes that are more than just physical representations of a design, but which instead smooth the way into final production, as well as providing valuable information on product performance and conformance. Another cost-effective and fast method for manufacturing prototypes is 3D metal printing, or more precisely selective laser melting (SLM).
By the way: Audi implements a successful in-house additive production. In the medium term, this process could lead not only to the construction of prototypes but also to the provision of spare parts in line with demand - at the expense of die casting?