The Future of Rapid Prototyping in Focus
3D Printing Case – Consumer Electronics
Last year, I visited Motorola Mobility’s headquarters in Chicago where they showed the range of materials, designs and processes that went into creating their smartphones as well as their Moto 360 smart watches.
Aside from seeing all the colour swatches, the range of surfaces and materials used and tested, as well as the various prototypes of their products, it was interesting for me to see how quickly they could move from preliminary sketches, to 3D models.
Motorola showed us how they can quickly create and prototype the parts and components of their devices with various levels of 3D printers that can create anything from rough drafts to accurate representations of pre-production models.
Employing rapid prototyping methods, the company uses a group of techniques used to quickly fabricate a scale model of a physical part or assembly using three-dimensional computer aided design (CAD) data. Construction of the part or assembly is usually done using 3D printing or "additive layer manufacturing" technology.
All of this is done in-house and under great scrutiny. The careful amount of detail this team dedicates to every aspect of the Moto 360, even in the design of the watchfaces, was evident as we toured their studios. Some of the facilities and printers were shielded and covered and we were told that they couldn't show us those displays, because they were working on the next versions of their products.
Using advanced 3D printing and material technology, they can vary the range of the prototypes from rough representations, which can be created within minutes, to more detailed and accurate prototypes which are mostly ready to go to manufacturing for a limited production run and testing. Being able to do create and test accurate prototypes in house helps a company like Motorola really expand their design and features of their products.
I think that it is because of this versatility, that Motorola can easily create smartphone like the Moto X, which now comes with a variety of materials such as wood, leather and polymer.
The company also created the Project Ara concept, which are smartphones that are made of various components that connect together like Legos, depending on what user’s need. The Project Ara components are designed to be made out of 3D printed parts.
Motorola Mobility has shown that for a company that focuses on mobile devices and wearables, rapid prototyping can lead to a wider range of design options and gives manufacturers more flexibility in iterating their designs and components even as they chase ever tightening deadlines.
Solutions and services, like the ones provided by Proto3000, can help companies tap into the benefits of Rapid Prototyping today. With over 100 materials, utilizing 5 different rapid prototyping processes the Proto3000 Team will provide customers with rapid prototyping services they need.
Through software applications you are able to manipulate the design and create successive layers until the model is fully rendered. There is very little deviation from the virtual model, and its soon to be physical counterpart.
Prototyping allows for catching any imperfections in a product prior to it reaching the market. The benefits of assets invested in research and development far outweigh the potential losses in recalls or defects. Even a simple idea can begin to take form with rapid prototyping.