In the past, when an independent inventor designed a product, it did not necessarily mean that they could produce a 3d rapid prototyping. For many inventors and entrepreneurs, this was one of the biggest roadblocks they would encounter. With the rising popularity and reduced cost of 3D prototyping, producing prototypes or even a production line can be done on an affordable budget. Savvy entrepreneurs within any industry may be able to create prototypes and products from their home. Benefits of 3D prototyping Prototypes are used for both product testing as well as showing a product to potential investors or buyers. With the ability for home prototyping via a 3D printer, not only is this process made simpler, changes to your design can be implemented on the fly. For example, you show your product to an investor who would like to see a change in your product. The reality now is that this change could be implemented in as little as a day, depending on the complexity of the change. This level of flexibility can drastically reduce your time from prototype to production, which is something that any investor would appreciate. Similar systems can be used for full production, utilizing more expensive and precise 3D printers and CNC milling machines. Originally seen in Asia, micro factories started giving designers an outlet to produce a small run of a custom product using these more advanced 3D printers. In times before, the initial investment for a new product was incredibly high, as full-sized factories often required minimum orders of a million units. This provided many obstacles for the inventor, such as time, money and storage constraints. 3D prototyping in a Nutshell For those unfamiliar with the process, 3D prototyping sounds like science fiction. Printing a replacement part for a household item or a piece of jewelry from the comfort of your home computer is something few have imagined. In reality, 3D prototyping is a natural successor to current paper printing technologies. 3D prototyping put simply is a two step process. First, the product must be designed. This is done using software such as AutoCAD, in which the designer will create a digital 3D model similar to the way an architect would design a house. When a design is completed, it is stored in a digital file format, which is then loaded into the 3D prototyping software. At this point, the 3D prototyping software will interface with the 3D printer to produce the design. Typical 3D printers work by extruding a material onto a moving surface, which will layer by layer, replicate the design to create a physical product. The quality of the 3D printer will determine how detailed the product can be. 3D prototyping Now and in the FutureCurrently, someone wishing to utilize 3D prototyping has three options: high and low-end commercially available printers, building his own using information found in open source communities found on the Internet. For those wanting to look into 3D prototyping for themselves, a good place to start is the Open Source RepRap Community, an online source for 3D printer enthusiasts.