Seeing something 2D-printed out on paper is entirely different from seeing the same item digitally on the computer screen. Colours are different, arrangements vary and even shapes appear different on paper. Just imagine how many differences there can be between a digital 3D model and a physical 3D printed one. This concept, which has been amply demonstrated and widely accepted for industrial prototyping, is just as true for personal creativity.
Solid Concepts, the largest 3D print service in the US (recently acquired by Stratasys) recently showed how much of a difference 3D printing can make in bringing a new product to market by telling the story of Christine Barlow, a “creative mom” set on inventing a new kind of baby bottle that would eliminate potentially harmful toxins from a baby’s diet.
Barlow revealed that she knew she wanted a sturdy bottle that would keep plastics from touching the fluids within it. In the beginning she envisioned the original design for it and went straight to a plastic manufacturer who gave her the name of a CAD designer to create the bottle prototype. Upon seeing the physical product Barlow saw there were huge fundamental flaws, the most noticeable of which was its huge size, something that is very hard to fully envision when seeing it on a computer monitor.
She then turned to Solid Concepts to develop a more accurate version. “If I hadn’t prototyped, I would have ended up giving my first set of drawings to a manufacturer and really would have ended up with a mess!” Barlow used the 3D Printed baby bottles from Solid Concepts for function and design checks. “It’s hard to have a [realistic] visual of something from just the computer, even if it is in 3D.”
The final version of her 5phases baby bottle consists of six pieces. Each baby bottle is composed of two main parts: a replaceable glass insert within a translucent plastic sleeve that is BPA, PVC and phthalate free. This way only the glass is in contact with the infant formula or milk and the plastic sleeve serves to prevent breaking and cushions it from possible falls.
Solid Concepts 3D printed the baby bottle prototype using the SLA process, which is now becoming more accessible, even to the man or woman on the street, such as Christine Barlow, who had no previous experience with prototyping and industrial manufacturing. Through SLA it is possible to create fully transparent 3D objects, such as the baby bottle, before trying to pitch the idea to manufacturing firms to produce the final version.
Enjoying great commercial success and media visibility with her 5 Phases Revolutionary Hybrid Glass Baby Bottle, Barlow showed not only that 3D printing can make a difference in bringing great ideas to market but also that, more and more often, great ideas come from normal people who know exactly what millions of other normal people like them need: industrial product design at its very best.