Prototype by hand Hands-On vs. Digital Prototypes        

Why Designers Should Build Prototypes By Hand

August 28, 2014

By now, if you’re in the design world (and even if you’re not) you hear about 3D printing on a daily basis. 3D printing has revolutionized the way products are made. Our MakerBot is used often for client presentations and to test concepts and refine ideas throughout our design process. However, we also firmly believe that sometimes it is better to build a prototype by hand.

We came across an article on Fast Company’s site, 3-D Printers, Bah! Why Designers Should Build Prototypes By Hand, that spoke very well to this idea of keeping certain prototypes in the hands of designers rather than a machine. A few of their reasons hands-on models beat digital models are highlighted below.

CAD tools serve as a mediator between a mental image and reality. Without the restrictions of a computer, designers are able to think freely and work intuitively. This can often work out better as designers are able to shape, examine and refine as necessary.

A complex, ergonomically driven form can be refined quickly using hands-on techniques. You can experience and correct the design on the fly, fitting it to a variety of hands. At Beyond Design, we have found that when designing shavers for Remington a handmade model is the way to go because proper ergonomics is so imperative in the design (shown in the image below).

Remington Shaver Model

3D printing is quick, however, when you consider the time it takes for the iterative process it isn’t as fast as you may think. What you create in CAD is exactly what you get. By comparison, if a hand-built model doesn’t look or feel quite right, a designer can quickly adjust that part of the model without going through the entire 3D process again.

Remington Shaver Models

Every project has different requirements for prototypes and it’s up to you, as the designer, to decide what method is best. The different types of prototyping technology available to designers (SLA, FDM, SLS, etc.) all have distinct finish and material properties – making some processes more suitable than others in specific applications.

3D printing continues to amaze our team, but sometimes hand-built models are the way to go. We especially like this sentence from the article, “Hand-built models provide an intimate experience that connects a designer to his work, letting him feel his way to better designs in a way that isn’t matched by CAD.” To read the full article, click here. 

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