Rapid Prototyping And How It Accelerates Innovation

By Martin Gilliard

Rapid prototyping is an essential tool for accelerating the innovation process. It is a tool that enables you to get to something tangible fast by quickly turning ideas and insights into actual models that can be manipulated or modified.

Prototyping of this nature then makes discussion and conversations about what the end product should be so much easier. People are much more likely to understand a concept when presented with a concrete representation of the proposal.

a rapid prototype

(Photo Credit: Simon Davison)


Computer Aided Design and 3D Printing

Prototypes are usually created using 3D computer aided design software. And more and more so these days, the end results are often created using 3D printing technology.

Below is a video of prototyping using 3D printers. It demonstrates how modeling software is used to let designers create anything from Michelangelo's David to spring based shock absorbers.

3D printers deliver the prototype so that designs can be thoroughly tested before they go into production.


Companies Who Use Prototyping

Examples of companies where prototyping is used include:

  • 3M – who let their customers view the prototype and make suggestions, which in turn drives the organisation to quickly allocate budget and resources to move quickly forward with the development of the product.
  • Walt Disney – who sketch and storyboard ideas for new theme parks.
  • Sony – whose employees are encouraged to create look like and works like models prior to project initiation.


Improves Communication

Prototyping enables design errors and opportunities to be highlighted sooner but more importantly it encourages people to ask questions early, understand concepts more quickly and therefore enable further improvements to the design.

Incorporating the customer in this process ensures that the right thing is being built that provides the appropriate value expected.

Ultimately it's about improving the interactions with people. 



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