By Stephen Simantiras

As technology evolves and shapes our industry, many industrial designers and engineers find themselves jumping straight into CAD, hoping to have 3D prototypes built quickly for rapid user testing. CAD, along with 3D printing, allows for amazing turnaround time and is highly efficient, however it creates downfalls early on in product development.  A CAD environment gives a false sense of scale and user feel.  It is very common for a designer or engineer to realize that the form they spent a full day creating is the wrong scale, non-ergonomic, and would cost the company/client several hundred dollars to make in materials cost alone.  With such high stakes, how do we avoid this common pitfall?

The answer comes from the foundation of the industry; the art of model making!  Using inexpensive materials such as foam core board, EPS foam board, and PU foam board, designers and engineers have the ability to quickly carve out forms and test macro functions of a product.  In the time it takes to model and 3D print a single prototype; the designer can easily create many iterations of the form.

Along with the speed of iterations, the quality of feedback from early user testing is invaluable. The sooner a model can get into a user’s hand, the faster feedback is given for product refinement.  The suggestions received from users can be taken into account, implemented into a second foam model, and reintroduced quickly to observe any change without having to redesign and reprint a new 3D Model.

Once the feedback is gathered from these models, the designer or engineer can use CAD to create a more accurate 3D prototype to finally be printed and tested again!