Your Guide to Rapid Prototyping

Posted by Briana Lipor on 4/15/20 9:00 AM

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When it comes to the production and profitability of fabricated reflective optics, time is of the essence.

At Reflective Concepts, we are the rapid prototyping experts. We understand that time is money, and the longer a product takes before it is sold the longer it will be before you see a profit. This is exactly why we offer rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping isn't a new concept by any means, but in the nearly four decades since its inception, the techniques have been refined to advance many industries including fabricated reflective optics. With a large percentage of our country working from home, now is the optimal time to tweak and perfect your product design and utilize our rapid prototyping services. 




How Does Rapid Prototyping Work?

Rapid prototyping is a group of technologies used to quickly fabricate a scale model of a physical part or assembly using 3D printing or CAD design. A common misconception about rapid prototyping is that a machine is simply loaded and a finished part magically appears. The majority of work involved in prototyping actually happens well before a prototype is created. First, we work with customers to determine the specific prototype needs, then our engineers pinpoint which of the rapid prototyping technologies will produce optimal results:

3D Printing and Modeling are the most common methods, using equipment that creates three-dimensional components in various materials including plastics, wax, and metal. While effective, this technology can’t directly produce a fabricated reflector. Instead, we use 3D printing and modeling for rapid tooling and fixture needs. It dramatically reduces prep time as compared to traditional methods.

Laser and CNC Punching are the most traditional rapid prototyping methods for fabricated reflectors. These technologies are the core of versatile and rapid fabricated metals processing, and continue to advance and mature. Laser and CNC punching are programmable and changeable so the process can continue until the part is right, allowing for modifications and experimentation if needed.






What Are The Benefits of Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid Prototyping is both progressive and practical. Using these techniques provides you with significant advantages:

• Speed. As the name implies, Rapid Prototyping produces results quickly. However it’s also understood that while prototyping is rapid, it’s never rushed. Experience, engineering, and technologies combine for best outcomes.

• Better proof of concept/testing results. An accurate prototype is critical in evaluating and verifying the product’s function, fit, and finish as well as working out any manufacturability issues that may arise during the process. Precision is the foundation of Rapid Prototyping.

• Speed in transitioning to production. Anyone can make anything once, but what about the second time, and every time after that? The prototyping process always represents the production process, ensuring consistency and a quick start-up of the production process while also allowing for low volume manufacturing if necessary.

• Product refinement. Once you’ve gone through the Rapid Prototyping process, revisions and modifications to products are much easier to implement.

• Time to market. All of the above—speed, better results, streamlined transitioning and easy refinements—mean you’re able to get your product to market faster for higher profitability.




The greatest benefit of prototyping is the ability to test various part concepts quickly. Even the best engineers and designers are regularly surprised by what can be learned by evaluating and testing a part. Details that may not be apparent on a CAD will show up readily in a prototype. Ultimately, eliminating costly mistakes, improving the quality of the design and allowing more valuable iteration cycles of concept to prototype. The ability to explore and realize concepts more quickly ultimately saves you money in the long run. Allowing yourself to move beyond the mere visualization of a product, making it easier to grasp the properties and design of a product. At RCI, we also offer our manufacturability assessment which can be done simultaneously to rapid prototyping to save time and ensure that the product can be manufactured as is. 

Now is the time to test your concept and get to production. RCI is the gold standard when it comes to rapid prototyping and manufacturability assessing. Do you have a reflector project you need our assistance on? Give us a call at 262-605-0500, or  contact us to start a conversation about your application needs.

Topics: Fabricated Reflectors, Rapid Prototyping, manufacturing, prototyping