Today's 3D rapid prototyping methods allows us to execute fast and frequent changes or revisions of their early stage designs. This technology allows the developer, to quickly realize how the part, or product will look and perform, before investing in expensive tooling, molds, and developing the manufacturing process for the new product.
Typically the process starts with software such as SolidWorks, with the design of the item completed in CAD, then exporting the CAD file, converting it to a .stl polygon file, and the once again converting the polygon file, to 3D Printer machine GCode file ready for 3d printing.
Though still an involved process to create a physical 3d modeled part or product utilizing this technology, it can be less costly than old fashion methods, where any such part or assembly, had to be prototyped in the machine shop, and often times very expensive molds would have to be constructed, to evaluate any new physical product.
Rapid prototyping with 3D printing allows product designers and engineers more iterations in less time, so they can test thoroughly while still reducing time to market. Though it is still very important to have clear design intent as generally speaking, the later a problem is discovered in the design process, the more costly it may be to correct. Finding and fixing problems early in the design process is essential to keeping a project on-budget and on-time.
A wide range of 3D printing materials can produce tough, functional engineering prototypes for highly accurate performance testing, or realistic models that look and feel, and operate like your finished part or product.
Today's modern materials adapted to 3d printers, such as photopolymers, thermoplastics, organic bio-degradeable plastics, metals and composite materials provide a full spectrum of choice, and material properties, many of which withstand secondary post processes like sealing, polishing, painting, metallization or electroplating, post 3D printing.