How 3D Printing Makes for a Better Product Experience

by Greg Janky on July 24, 2017

At Anvil Studios, we pride ourselves on creating products which people love to use. Given our passion for great design, it makes perfect sense that we’d be fans of using 3D printing in the design process.

Early on in my career as an industrial designer, it became apparent to me that 3D printing sped up the development process and mitigated risk. I was working on a product that had articulating parts and a lot of components that needed to fit together with precision. The tooling estimate was around $100,000 for production.

The owner of the company was eager to get the product into production, but was understandably apprehensive about paying the quoted $10,000 price for a 3D printed prototype (it was the late ‘90s). I told him, “if we pay $10,000 now for the prototype, it will save us a potential $100,000 tooling mistake later.” He was immediately sold.

A week later we had the prototype in our hands. The mechanical engineer and I were able to evaluate the design, function, and performance and to make the minor necessary modifications. We were ready to go into production.

These days, 3D printing continues to allow designers to evaluate their design ideas early in the design process, but now it’s even quicker, cheaper, and more precise.

Unlike traditional prototyping methods, such as CNC milling, 3D printing is an additive process that allows for incredibly complex geometries to be created layer by layer and without multiple set-ups or steps. A traditional CNC milled part might take nearly a week to fabricate, while the same part 3D printed could be produced in only a few hours.

3D printers not only get the job done faster, but they can boost consumer satisfaction. By using 3D printing, designers can iterate faster and deeper to refine their concept.  A better thought-out product makes for a better product experience, and a better product experience leads to a more satisfied customer.

 


This was the first prototype we created of a job site speaker we designed for Milwaukee Tool. This first version helped us verify size, scale, and the initial details.

 


The second 3D printed speaker prototype, with all details incorporated, such as screw holes and grill pattern. This was to verify the final design intent before handing off the CAD file to the client.

 


This third iteration is an appearance model that utilized 3D printing for all of the parts. After printing, each of the parts were sanded, primed, and painted to replicate the final look of a manufactured product. This model was then used for marketing purposes (including photoshoots) while the product was being manufactured. This specific model was such good quality that the marketing team mistook it for a production sample and drug it behind a pick-up truck during a photoshoot (to show off it’s durability), which is why it is so banged up!

 


These 3D printed end-caps showcase the various stages of models created through-out the process of the Milwaukee jobsite speaker.

 

Greg Janky is co-founder, with Treasure Hinds, of Anvil Studios in Seattle, WA. Greg is very focused and passionate about design and the benefits it brings to his clients and end users. Greg is fluent in rapid visualization, and employs tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Alias, & SolidWorks as a means to communicate his design vision. Greg resides in the Pacific Northwest with is wife and two daughters. He is an avid automobile enthusiast and international traveler.

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