Perfection: The Adversary of 3D Printing
Todd Grimm posted on March 01, 2012 |
If you act like a perfectionist with new product designs, you are undermining the value of your 3D p...

Lightbulb mazeThe relentless pursuit of perfection is admirable but perfectionism is not.

While I am by no means perfect, I do have a nasty perfectionistic streak. My internal critic slows my progress and affects my productivity. Instead of shooting for a “good enough” first draft, I often attempt to hit home runs with my first at-bat.

Why all of this personal revelation? A recent case study by Stratasys made me realize the error of my ways and appreciate the devaluation of 3D printing for anyone that targets perfection from the get-go.

Long ago, I was told that “rapid prototyping”—yes, it was that long ago—isn’t meant to prove you right; it is a tool to show you the errors and mistakes so that you can correct them in the next revision. It gets you to perfect products but not through perfect first cuts.

In the Stratasys case study of a two-person team, there is an inspirational tale of a trial-and-error approach that culminated in the first unmanned aerial system (UAS) to take off and land on its own gear. Rather than toiling for hours to perfect a design or pump it through computer simulation, the UAS builders opted for a fast-turn, discover-as-they-go approach that actually saved them time and money.

Their process was simple: design, print, test and repeat.

As I pondered this story, another tale came to mind. I was told of a star designer that seemed incapable of producing poor designs. But that was far from the truth. He merely hid his imperfections under the cover of darkness. It seems that when he had an idea, he’d model it and wait for everyone else to leave for the evening. Then, and only then, he would print his new creation.

Arriving the next morning before everyone else, he would snatch his creation from the printer. If it was poorly conceived, he tossed it. If it had merit, he would present it. His trial-and-error approach ensured that no one was aware of his less-than-perfect ideas.

The moral of these ramblings is that if you act like a perfectionist with new product designs, you are undermining the value of that 3D printer sitting in the corner. Aim for good enough; then print your design. Let the physical embodiment of your brilliant ideas show you what needs to be altered.

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