Prototyping is experimental by nature. It challenges students to test and perfect their innovative designs to strengthen their design process. Traditional prototyping isn’t in most university’s students’ budgets. Thanks to 3D printers and fleet software, students can save, print, and modify their prototypes in a matter that is time and budget friendly.
Before 3D Printers for Schools
Before universities provided printer fleets, students would be graded on their hand-drawn or virtual 3D models. While hand drawing and computer aided design (CAD) are still part of the design process, students can now 3D print their innovations. This allows next-level prototyping to better prepare them for real-life additive manufacturing.
Students can test and experiment to determine fit, form, and function. Like real-life pre-production design cycles, students can improve their design by reprinting their prototype in different:
- Print materials
Even if the end goal isn’t to manufacture a viable product, students learn the intricacies of the design process from start to finish. This includes the same rapid prototyping used by entrepreneurs and engineers of every kind.
How Rapid Prototyping Works in the 3D Printing Industry
The traditional prototyping process requires the designer to submit detailed product specs, then send it to a manufacturer to create a prototype mold, and a physical prototype. This costs between $500 and $1,500, which most students can’t afford.
3D printers for schools offer students the ability to rapidly prototype their designs without an external manufacturer—and at a small fraction of the cost. Many prototypes are $15 or less per prototype. Rapid prototyping doesn’t just refer to the ability to print your own design, but also the ability to test and explore more concepts.
The Benefits of Rapid Prototyping at an Educational Institution
Students gain the hands-on experience required for real-life applications. This better prepares them for employment and inspires many to launch their manufacturer-ready products.
And yes, some prototypes evolve into 3D printed MVPs and market-ready products. Some that attract the attention of external investors.
3D Printers for Schools:
#1 Are Budget-Friendly
Empower students to bring their designs to life at a price point that fits into their budget. Most universities set up a prepayment program and platform so that students can check their balance and add more funds at any time. Price per gram or cubic inch varies by the print materials but starts as low as $0.20 per gram / $5 per cubic inch.
#2 Ensure Rapid Turnaround
Create a design and print the prototype without delay. There’s no lead time wasted sourcing a manufacturer, waiting for a mold, or shipping the prototype once it’s complete. While students may have to wait their turn in the print queue, the turnaround time is often hours or days—opposed to weeks.
#3 Allows for Design Complexity
3D printing empowers students to print intricate designs, unique shapes, and innovative geometries. It drastically minimizes the creative constraints and limitations of creating prototypes with molds. This allows for endless creativity and advanced functionality.
#4 Allows for Design Variations
The speed and low cost of rapid prototyping allows students to explore more concepts and product versions before turning in their assignment or launching their MVP for beta testing. Just load the last version in your 3D printer fleet software, tweak the design, print settings, and design materials and go again.
#5 Improves Features and Functions
Students can experiment with product additive materials to test mechanical strength, rigidity, temperature resistance, chemical resistance, dimensional accuracy, color, and more. This helps students print multiple versions for:
- Proof of concept
- Visual prototypes
- Minimum viable products
- Functional prototypes
- Print-ready beta testing
- Pre-production prototypes
- Market-ready 3D printed products
The Role of 3D Printer Fleet Software in Prototyping
Printing a viable prototype isn’t as simple as uploading the design to CAD software and pressing print. Setting up the print job is a complex and multi-step process. If the print job is not set up properly, it will fail. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the design isn’t sound, it could simply be that the supports, infill, mesh holes, and intersections weren’t set up properly. Or that there weren’t enough materials in the printer to complete the prototype.
3D printer fleet software optimizes print success rates by walking students through the setup workflow. It also allows for a variety of advanced features and functions, such as remote print job setup, access controls, and ensuring that the printer has enough material.
In terms of rapid prototyping, it helps students position their product on the build plate for the most efficient print time. It also saves print versions. This allows students to quickly and easily adjust their prototype per their test results.
In Need of 3D Printer Fleet Software?
If your university or school is looking to add or optimize your printer fleet, we invite you to consider 3DPrinterOS software. We are the software of choice for a growing list of universities, some with over a million print hours and counting!