General Question

jhodgkins's avatar

How do I get into R&D prototyping?

Asked by jhodgkins (45 points ) July 9th, 2012

I would love to end up in a shop that created prototypes for clients but I’m afraid I don’t know a lot of the skills necessary. How do I acquire these skills and what should my course of action be to obtain this goal?

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5 Answers

gorillapaws's avatar

Learning how to create 3D models on a computer might be a good place to start, and won’t cost you anything to get started. Download Blender and do a Google search for tutorials. Make some sketches on paper and see if you can’t re-create them in the program. 3D printers are becoming cheaper every-day, so that might be worth looking into as well. Of course there’s always design/engineering classes in college, although you could probably find good ones on iTunes U for free.

dabbler's avatar

@gorillapaws ideas about 3-D design are useful. Shapeways has a lot of resources for 3-D printing, including design tips.

jerv's avatar

It really depends on what you plan to do. Are you merely designing prototypes, actually making them, or both? And what sort of prototypes are you hoping to make?

I am a CNC machinist, and often work on “First article” parts; our term for prototypes. While I do not design them, I have to make them, and that involves a lot of feedback as the designer and the maker hammer out the best, most cost-effective (and time is money) way to turn your idea into an actual object. For a 3D printer, it’s easy. For a CNC mill/lathe, it’s more involved, but also variable depending on teh machine, the material….

Without knowing more details, it’s hard to say what you really need to know. The only constant is that CAD skills are required, though how much CAD you need to know depends on which end of the prototyping process you are on.

dabbler's avatar

@jerv Good bead on some of the facets of design!
Manufacturability requires some knowledge of how the finished product will actually be produced.

If you’re designing machined parts like @jerv makes, you will probably also need to know some mechanical engineering methods to analyse the stresses the part will endure and design accordingly.
Some more sophisticated CAD programs have structural analysis tools built into them.

jerv's avatar

@dabbler One of the most annoying things I deal with is engineers who think that just because it’s trivial to move a few pixels on the screen, it’s equally easy to set up on my machines. Sorry, but moving a 700 pound fixture and aligning it to within 0.0005” is harder than clicking a mouse. And our shop doesn’t have 4-axis machines either, so sometimes we need to be creative about bolting a part to the table.

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