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The Reality of 3D Printed Prototypes

Jun 16, 2017

The world of prototyping is complex and fascinating. With the recent craze of additive manufacturing and the obsession with 3D printing, getting a prototype made within a few days appears to be an easy and inexpensive process. Some think that any material can be printed and others think that printing can produce hundreds or even thousands of parts. This notion has put pressure on prototype companies to better explain their value proposition.

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3D printing is a great technology that can produce an early design prototype quickly and inexpensively. But the fascination with this modern technology has created some illusions about its capabilities. 3D printed prototypes are typically unfinished with a rough surface, are limited to certain weaker materials, and aren't functional for testing. 

At The Engineering Resource Center, we offer 3D printing for the appropriate applications. However, our objective is to better understand your component and the requirements for its application. We want to ensure that we produce your part out of the specified material, not a printable material. We want to make sure that all of the features required on your part exist on your prototype, not just most of them. We want to produce your part to design, without compromise.

Our prototyping process is a little different than 3D printing in that we actually injection mold the prototype component. Our experienced toolmakers start by building a tool out of steel that allows us to create your part exactly to specification. This also makes it possible to produce your component out of the exact material specified. While this process takes a little longer than 3D printing, and might cost a bit more initially, you will have a production-quality part that is exact to your design. Another benefit? We are able to produce hundreds to thousands of parts for a fraction of the cost of 3D printing the same amount. Not only that, but should you want to make a slight modification to the part, we can handle that too.

3D printing has a strong place in the world of prototyping, but buyers should beware. If it seems to good to be true, it often is. If you need a prototype that will replicate the final production part, injection molding will yield the most accurate results. 

The Engineering Resource Center is known for producing the highest quality prototypes. Whether you need it 3D printed or injection molded, we'll never sacrifice quality. Making your life easier and avoiding surprises: that is the goal of The Engineering Resource Center.

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