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What Is Digital Prototyping?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Feb 08, 2024
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Digital prototyping is a process by which a new product is designed and a prototype for it is created digitally, rather than physically. This prototype is typically created in a computer program that is able to run simulations using real world parameters to stress test the product, evaluate its physical mechanisms, and perform other tests that are done on a physical prototype. The use of such software can reduce the initial costs for a company, since new digital prototypes can often be made or modified more cheaply and easily than physical ones. Digital prototyping can be incorporated into every stage of development for a product, from concept to marketing.

The use of digital prototyping has developed alongside advancements in computer technology. Software is readily available to many companies that allow such companies to create digital prototypes rather than physical ones. These prototypes can be just as detailed as physical prototypes are, and include hundreds of parts that are all created and assembled in a virtual environment.

Digital prototyping is usually done with software that includes a powerful and comprehensive physics engine. This allows prototypes to be tested for stress durability, usability, and other general parameters that would be tested on a physical prototype. The digital nature of such prototypes can make them easier to change or modify. This allows digital prototyping to have a faster turnaround time when making changes such as color or material alterations.

A digital prototype can typically be created more quickly than a physical prototype, and the digital image can be exported to a file that is more easily viewed by other employees without a technical background in prototyping. This makes digital prototypes not only more effective for many companies, but also allows the images created to be used in market research and development.

Digital prototyping often begins at the very first stages of development. Conceptual designs can be imported into digital prototyping software and used as a reference throughout the development process. Once the digital prototype is created, it can then be used in developing the actual product, and even used to simulate what type of manufacturing process may be needed to create the product. Renderings made from a digital prototype can be used for customer testing of a product and marketing. Digital prototyping can create photorealistic renderings of an item that can be used to create an advertisement for that product, without the need for a photo shoot or even the existence of a physical product.

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