Rapid Prototyping in India
A journey from luxury to necessity
S. J. Bakshi, Protosys Technologies
Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India.
As more and more Indian companies
try the Rapid Prototyping technology, the realization of its
true benefits and economics become evident. This paper attempts
to highlight these factors with appropriate case studies and
also clear some of the myths as listed below: -
||RP is expensive and thus a
"luxury" for the Indian industry.
||RP is not useful for my "industry".
||RP means "rapid production".
||We can get "permanent
moulds" made in the same cost.
||We are using "3D CAD"
softwares and hence do not need prototyping.
There have been cases when people
have had to go through a series of management approvals before
getting a sanction for a new design to be prototyped by using
the RP techniques. Once the "unjustifiable" cost
was incurred, the entire team of designers and the management
saw the "more than justifiable" benefits. The entire
set of parts was re-ordered incurring double the expenditure
to ensure that the mistakes of the first set were not repeated.
The "industry" for
this argument is classified into two categories viz. scale
wise & product/service wise. Each industry can utilize
the RP techniques in different ways. The broad benefits of
RP are Form, Fit, Function & Tooling. The extent of benefits
of RP derived by a company depend upon the following factors
of "newness" in the development.
The more original the new design, the more it can benefit
from the RP techniques. Major modifications in the existing
designs have also reaped good benefits from RP techniques.
The cost of change increases
as the project advances. Hence RP is most useful in
planning stage itself. May be product conceptualization,
tool planning, bid planning or any other.
The more complex the part geometry in terms of shape,
number and orientation of features, the more economical
is the use of RP techniques. It is in such situations
that the cost of manufacturing the part by conventional
methods exceeds the RP cost.
Irrespective of the size or type of the industry, the
companies that emphasize on innovation and doing things
right the first time have made the most of the RP techniques.
Since the RP yields parts that
appear very similar to the end product, the expectation of
properties from it also go higher. However, once the RP part
is accepted as a "prototype" or a "sample",
the true benefits are easier to accept. As of now, there are
limitations in the RP techniques in terms of the materials,
the accuracy and the surface finish achieved on the parts.
These aspects do limit the extent to which the parts produced
by RP techniques can be used as functional products.
However, the techniques are extremely useful even within these
limitations and in many cases the parts have been put to functional
For simpler part geometries,
at times, the permanent moulds can be done in the same cost
as that of a RP part. But may not be always possible to match
the time factors. Besides, as the part gets complicated the
economics set in. The part geometry drives the selection of
the right production process even in conventional cases and
RP techniques too have to be applied with due consideration.
Incorrect selection of
the process for particular part geometry should not go to
the discredit of the technology.
Advances in 3D CAD modeling
softwares have reduced the number of prototypes that may be
required to evaluate a particular alternative. A part in hand,
at times, is easier to understand than reviewing a number
of views / sections. Evaluating the accessibility of critical
areas during assembly, taking valuable inputs from non-CAD
professional etc are some of the advantages of a physical
model over a CAD image.
Thus 3D CAD softwares
do not eliminate the need of prototyping. On the contrary,
they ease the process of making a Rapid Prototype.
With the Indian industry accepting
the global challenge, the fundamentals of survival & growth
have changed from production centric to innovation centric.
Product developments are being undertaken at various levels.
After the initial sceptism, companies from various industries
that range from small to corporate are incorporating RP techniques
into the product development cycle. In fact, some companies
have even made a policy to get even the smallest bush or pad
prototyped by RP methods before the tooling is ordered for
Thus, many Indian companies have traveled their
RP journey from luxury to necessity
Have you begun yours ?