Not too long ago, design, prototyping and production were considered separate disciplines. For instance, a company would likely design and engineer a product, then outsource the prototype to one company. The next step would to then outsource the prototype again for production as a means to save money and shift responsibility to a party with more expertise in the respective prototyping and production areas.
Today, more and more companies are keeping everything under one roof - and for good reason. Factors like time-to-market, equipment automation and cost savings are causing companies to realize the benefits of comprehensive design, prototype and production service. Here's a further look at why smart companies are keeping everything under one roof:
- Time to market: This is the most important reason for partnering with a company that provides the full scope of prototype and production services. Say a company's design engineers come up with a new, innovative product. The next step is to prototype it. If you outsource prototyping, you'll likely have to wait before it is made and comes back. Then, it's only natural that you'll have some tweaks and adjustments to make before it's green-lit for production. With today's rapid prototype technology - equipment which is becoming faster and more affordable by the day - companies can quickly create test parts, make adjustments and have the product ready for a production run quickly at the same facility - saving money and, most importantly, time.
- Funding: For many companies, the amount of investment capital available depends on how they can meet deadlines and show profitability and marketability. So while this reason to keep prototyping and production under one roof somewhat piggybacks off the above point of time to market, speed can be crucial for gaining funding, especially in competitive industries like medical.
- FDA approval: This is the lifeblood of getting many products approved. And it's not always easy to get. However, with advancements in prototyping technology, companies are now able to do more with their prototypes, actually permitting them to gain FDA approval from the prototype itself and not the end product. And, of course, this in turn leads to a faster time to market in many circumstances, as there's less time waiting for these intangibles, like FDA go-ahead.
- Cost effectiveness: As we mentioned earlier, prototyping and production are happily co-existing these days thanks to great advances in technology. The prototyping phase and the production phase these days are more similar than they've ever been, in addition to more economical to accomplish and faster to produce. These advantages are paying big dividends, as prototypes are coming back as close to an end product as they've ever been before. Direct Metal Laser Sintering, or DMLS, is one of these prototyping technologies that companies are relying more on for prototyping and production runs. What's more is that design changes with technologies like DMLS are able to be made to prototypes faster than ever before, all of which enables the product to get to the market - and into the hands of the end user - sooner. That's a big competitive advantage.
- Automation: Finally, there's automation, another factor that the latest technologies lend their hand to well. The cost of labor can make prototyping and production prohibitively expensive while driving up the final cost to the consumer and driving down profits. Developments in technology and robotics cannot only help improve product quality, but also reduce the costs of production. Smart companies stay abreast of new opportunities to automate their processes.
- Design, production insights & intellectual property: When the steps in the prototype design and product process are segmented between various service providers, critical information obtained can be lost from one step to the next. Working with a company that provides a comprehensive design and production experience will ensure time and information is not lost and that specifications are kept the intellectual property of the customer.
As you can see, it makes sense today more than ever to ensure that both prototyping and production are completed under one roof. State-of-the-art technology is marrying the disciplines so that prototypes can be created quickly, tweaked faster and produced sooner, ensuring that the product hits the market as fast as possible without sacrificing quality.
What challenges are you facing with ensuring a streamlined process for your prototype design?