When a company sets out to design and develop a new product, a step by step process is usually followed. A vital part of this process is the product beta test and at times, a product market test. Through these two methods, a company can get an understanding of the product’s real-world usage and use feedback to work out any problems of usage difficulties. The beta test can help validate the product itself through a control group. In addition, a market test can validate the product as well as the marketing and distribution plans, product support, and technical assistance if applicable through a control market launch.
Beta Testing is the test of a product by actual users in real-life situations. The testing can last for an extended period and participating users may include customers, partners or other stakeholders who will have feedback but no direct link with the company. At this point, the product will have all the specifications of the actual launch model, and will closely resemble it in all other aspects, ideally including packaging.
In order to beta test the product multiple replicas of the product have to be produced as close to the production model as possible. Mass production methods like injection molding or metal forming processes can be quite expensive and not ideal for the few hundred pieces required for beta testing. Dimensional accuracy of the final production models made by injection molding lies in the range of 10-100 microns. This is to be reproduced as closely as possible in the beta testing models as well for an accurate analysis of the final product while maintaining the costs low.
With latest advancements in 3D printing this kind of accuracy can be repeatably achieved. SLA is one such process that can offer a dimensional accuracy off up to 10 microns and a surface finish close to or better than that of injection molding. When SLA turns out to be costly, processes like Vacuum casting can be used to produce a few tens to hundreds of replicas of the target product.
Omnyk Inc had such a requirement wherein they wanted to prototype and beta tests their healthcare product before the final launch. With the help of 3D printing, they were able to go from design to beta testing in a matter of 2 weeks. Their designs were first prototyped using SLA and based upon the complexity of different modules of their design FDM and SLA were used to produce 100 sets of their product to be tested by their prospective customers.
Here are some sample images of different stages of product development and test production.
SLA prototype Production sample