What is Rapid Prototyping?

Emily Suzuki May 12, 2022 2 min read

Explore how designers bring designs to life quickly and efficiently using rapid prototyping methods and CAD software like Autodesk Fusion 360.  

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Usability, durability, and versatility are non-negotiable factors in modern-day product design. To meet high customer demands, designers and engineers are constantly looking at ways to improve their design process — from modernizing office workflows to fabrication and software.

Designing high-quality products requires better prototyping and overall product design. Prototyping is the first line of defense and arguably the most critical step in industrial design. This article explores the different types of prototyping and how Autodesk Fusion 360 streamlines the rapid prototyping process, enabling your team to iterate faster and smarter.

Common prototyping methods

Traditional industrial design prototyping was often an artistic undertaking because they often made prototypes by hand. Handmade models are still used in some industries and help with projects requiring a more creative approach. Still, there are other prototyping methods born from handmade sculptures that enable a wider range of prototyping possibilities.

For example, iterative prototyping is creating a prototype from the product design, testing it, and then revising it. Each new revision requires a newly manufactured iteration, while the old iteration gets tossed aside. This is a practical approach, but it can also be time-consuming and wasteful. 

Parallel prototyping is a method where designers draft several design concepts and compare them before physical manufacturing. This method sparks creativity and conceptual ideation but ultimately requires more resources, thus driving up costs.

What is rapid prototyping?

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Traditionally, designers created, printed and tested iteration after iteration with data transfers between different software. Rapid prototyping is a solution to the monotony of traditional physical prototyping. Rapid prototyping is the fast fabrication of a physical part, model, or assembly using computer-aided design (CAD) software like Autodesk Fusion 360. The rapid prototyping process typically involves taking a 3D model and quickly turning it into a physical prototype, often by 3D printing.

How does Autodesk Fusion 360 help with rapid prototyping?

Autodesk Fusion 360 is an integrated CAD and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. It’s comprehensive 3D modeling environment, along with tools like generative design and additive manufacturing plug-ins, enables designers to quickly create multiple iterations of one design. Fusion 360 can also test 3D designs for tolerances, durability, and other design parameters before hitting the 3D printer.

Designers do not need to export any of their designs out of Fusion 360 for the manufacturing process. Instead, they can quickly go from CAD to CAM to easily 3D print or machine a prototype. Rapid prototyping with the help of Fusion 360 enables you to create multiple iterations daily, rather than a single iteration that over multiple days. Designers can modify and revise iterations during the day and then print them overnight.

Ready to transform your prototyping process? Try Fusion 360 for free today. 

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