How development is present in almost all the products we use in the house

I read a case study about how Black and Decker uses 3D printing to cut development time of new consumer products from months to weeks to hours using 3D printing – it almost sounded too good to be true.  Then I started looking at my hand held vacuum that I use almost every day and realized that just about every part had been prototyped prior to molding.  When I started to add up all the time, even when done concurrently, that the development of the components took, I realized that how could they not use 3D printing to do concept development, part design validation, fit and form checks and finally test models for marketing.  It just makes sense to do prototyping prior to manufacturing.

Let’s look at the cost and time savings by using 3D printing with a sample design of a vacuum housing with 5 different pieces.

In the concept phase:

You go from the concept to the CAD Drawing then to a prototype tool.  Assume at least one tool revision on lead time on 2 of the parts.  Normal tool lead time is 4 to 6 weeks, concurrent tooling for all 5 pieces.  If you use 3D printing, go from CAD file to prototype parts in a day, revision for the two pieces the next day in hand.  Total time for prototype parts with a good concept:  48 hours.  Total for prototype parts out of traditional prototype tooling:  8 to 12 weeks.

In the design phrase: 

Prototype parts taken to focus group for evaluation – focus group comes back with suggestions for a new feature to be added (I.E. a power cord clip and power cord storage area in the back of the vacuum.)  With a 3D printer, you go back and revise the CAD file, submit the pieces for reprinting and have new design in a matter of hours.  With the traditional prototype tooling, you have to go back and retool those pieces adding another 4 weeks the keep your fingers crossed that you don’t have another tooling revision needed.

In the production phase:

Using 3D printing, you can do a low production volume prototype tooling (PIMT – Prototype Injection Molding Tool to make production parts if the total market volume needs are going to be low or if this is a limited edition product, or you can send the prototype part along with your CAD files to the production tooling house for manufacturing.  The model assure that the 1st article pieces produced from the production molds meet the expectations as well as allows for faster communications of standards of quality.  With PIMT, you have a production part in hours, and you can go to the testing labs for approvals since that will be your production tooling for a low volume run.   In the traditional production tooling after the approvals, you hopefully can use the traditional prototype tooling or you may need to go back to do the final tooling in order to get the finishes and details you require.  If that is the case (It is a worst case!) you add another 4 to 6 weeks to the cycle.    

All in all, you look at such a substantial savings and time factors –  increasing your market share and profit while saving months of development time, who wouldn’t want a 3D printer?

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