We all know that designers are more frequently found using 3D printers today, but there's a wonderful article in TCT Magazine describing Cisco's experience. Cisco, of course, is the mega-congolomerate that makes networking equipment among other ventures. Much of their product line involves physical objects that are installed in data centers or homes.
Those objects had better have the right shapes, colors and feels. How does Cisco ensure this?
In the past they would painstakingly construct the objects with conventional means, but today they're using a ZCorp 450 to rapidly punch out prototypes as often as 10 times per week. The prototypes are critically important, because as TCT writes:
Scandinavian design tradition requires the engineer to hold a prototype of his or her creation in their hands, sense the proportions and ensure that the form ultimately follows the function. The artisan then modifies the design, creates another prototype and examines the new design just like the first.
We think this is likely true in almost any design for physical objects. Therefore, 3D printing is likely applicable to almost any design shop.
Cisco gained the advantage of being able to run through several prototypes before arriving at a final and optimal design, whereas previously they would have had only limited opportunity to do so.
The other interesting aspect we observed was the digital nature of this modeling. Apparently Cisco designers are spread across the world, and they merely share their SolidWorks files electronically. Combined with 3D print technology, this implies that potentially all of them can be "hand testing" the prototype objects. And that means their design force can be completely distributed and still work effectively.
Via TCT Magazine