Engineer Blair Gotell designed what he calls the Stack-a-Buoy for fisherman. Intended for use with lobster lines, the buoys are easy to store and transport because they can be stacked even while attached to a rope. The design called for two separately molded pieces joined in a permanently watertight seal. Because the buoys would face rough handling and tough weather conditions, a durable watertight joint was essential to the product’s success.
To get an idea on the best way to manufacture the buoys, Gotell questioned firms at an industry trade show. He was initially limited to showing the design on paper. But trying to describe the product using 2D was difficult and he was running out of time.
The situation improved when Gotell visited the ZoomRP.com booth. The folks there said that Zoom.RP accepts CAD data and can deliver physical prototypes in as little as 24 hr. According to the firm, the best bet would be to build a nylon prototype using selective laser sintering (SLS). So Gotell left a set of STL files at the booth, and moved on to the rest of the show.
The next day, he picked up the correctly dimensioned, fully functional prototype. The replica was similar to what the finished part would look like, with a smooth finish and accurate tongue-and-groove joints. The prototype let Gotell show manufacturers exactly how the product would fit together, making it easy for him to find a company to work with.