Do you have a toy or game concept that is ready for the next phase of development? Are you having trouble conveying your vision with only two dimensions? Then you are ready to create a prototype.
3D printing has advanced considerably since the advent of stereolithography (SLA) in the 1980's. Once you have a computer aided design (CAD) file of your design that specifies and defines cubic 3 dimensional measurements of your idea, you have many output options. So how do you choose a product and service that best suits your needs?
Unless you are willing to purchase your very own 3D printer (actually an increasingly affordable option), then you will likely employ a prototype model making shop to generate your vision.
Prioritize key design attributes
Prioritize the "must have" attributes of your design. Must it be waterproof, heatproof, flexible, or transparent? Also consider the finish, would a one color model serve your purpose or is a more complicated color scheme required? Does the sample need to be smooth, or is a little texture acceptable?
New options with 3D printing capabilities
Since many printers can yield similar results, here are a few examples of more unique features available from manufacturers today.
Objet makes 3D printers that fit evenly along the resolution, cost and speed spectrum. Objet's many options in printing materials offer considerable variation in part strength, flexibility and transparency. This can be accomplished in a single print, saving assembly time and additional molding costs.
Earlier this year, Objet collaborated with Lego to demonstrate recent advances in 3D printing technology with samples at Lego World 2012. They showcased Lego minifigures and bricks created using the printers.
Another manufacturer with a strong foothold in the cost effective end of the spectrum is 3Dsystems with its line of Zprinters. One feature of the Zprinter is its ability to print in multiple colors, eliminating the additional step of painting your model.
Are you interested in home 3D printing? Affordable desktop options are appearing all the time, one example is The Cube printer, also made by 3Dsystems. The Cube sells for $1299.00 USD and prints in color, you can even transfer your files via WiFi.
Prior to reaching out to modeling firms, it's helpful to have a sense of how the 3D printing industry has evolved and what options available to you.
Keep in mind that trying to save on the initial print may result in longer finish times and could raise final cost. Also, try to give your prototyping partners more than a day to make that model!
Are you using 3D printer technology? We'd love to hear about your experiences. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Jennifer is a seasoned product development professional with a deep background in prototyping, model making and design project management. With a broad range of experiences working in the toy and game industry at Hasbro and Jakks Pacific, she provides independent professional consulting services as a Consumer Products Project Manager. She has worked on licensed brand properties such as Disney, Playskool, Marvel, Transformers and others.