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How Virtual Sample Methods Advance Sustainable Design Practices

December 7, 2023 | Productivity

Once, you could only assess a design by building a prototype. Throughout the design process, it wasn’t uncommon for dozens (even hundreds) of iterations to be made, built, and then thrown away. Not only was this an immense time drain, but it was also highly wasteful of resources. Now, with a virtual sample becoming easy to create thanks to advancing technology, there has been a  fundamental change in the design process.

Unlike their physical counterparts, virtual samples are a digital representation of a design that demonstrates what a prototype would look like. And, with only a few clicks, a designer can alter the design, creating a new iteration – without starting from scratch.

In this article, we’ll explore how technological advancements have allowed virtual sample methods to replace physical prototypes, making a more sustainable design process. We’ll talk about the key benefits of virtual samples, why they’re so important, and what designers can achieve with them.

What is a Virtual Sample?

In the context of manufacturing and product design, a virtual sample is a digital representation of an item created using computer-aided design (CAD) or digital rendering tools.

The sample is an accurate visual mock-up of what the physical product would look like, capturing its colors, textures, dimensions, and even lighting. It’s a significant step in the early stages of the design process – a chance for designers and stakeholders to evaluate and refine the aesthetics and functionality before signing off.

That’s not all – virtual samples are also easy to share. Through cloud-based platforms or just good old-fashioned images, designers can send a sample to stakeholders or investors to gather feedback or secure funding. 

Key Benefits of Virtual Samples

Virtual samples aren’t just an unnecessary innovation. Adopting them into your design process leads to several key benefits, including:

  • Faster Review Cycles: Virtual samples can be created and modified quickly, enabling swift feedback and approval processes accelerating the overall product development cycle.
  • Web-Based Accessibility: They can be easily viewed and shared through web platforms, facilitating collaboration among global teams and stakeholders without geographical constraints.
  • Affordability: Virtual sampling cuts down on the costs of materials, labor, and logistics associated with physical samples, making it a budget-friendly option, especially for small businesses and startups.
  • Reduced Environmental Footprint: The digital nature of virtual samples eliminates the waste and environmental impact of fabricating multiple physical prototypes.
  • Improved Market Adaptability: The ability to rapidly produce and alter virtual samples allows businesses to quickly adapt to consumer feedback or market trends, staying ahead in competitive markets.

Can Virtual Samples Replace Physical Prototypes?

Yes and no. Virtual samples can certainly replace much of previous prototype creation. The endless iterations are no longer necessary, with changes in computer designs being so simple to make. What designer wants to spend hours constructing a new model when they could achieve the same result with a few clicks? 

For complex products, however, a physical prototype may still be necessary to fully test functionality and user interaction. That will usually come after the virtual sample stage. 

Nonetheless, virtual samples will significantly cut down the number of physical samples, resulting in less waste and pointless expense. Moreover, they’ll save designers time to hone the virtual design further or work on other projects. 

Why Do Virtual Samples Matter

For designers, the time and effort saved is a key boon. But it’s by no means the most important aspect of virtual samples – that’s their environmental impact.

Drastically reducing the need for physical materials typical of prototype creation eliminates a significant proportion of the waste and pollution associated with the manufacturing and design stages. 

For companies seeking to conserve resources, minimize their carbon footprints, and reduce industrial waste, they’re a significant part of the green toolkit. Little wonder they’ve been widely adopted by eco-conscious design teams, allowing for greater innovation while safeguarding our ecosystems.

Capabilities and Uses of Virtual Samples

Virtual samples are here to stay. These tech innovations boast numerous capabilities to streamline design and production. However, their core capabilities are twofold:

  1. Realistic Visualization: They accurately depict textures, colors, and lighting, giving stakeholders a true-to-life representation of the final product.
  2. Rapid Prototyping: Changes to designs can be applied quickly, enabling dynamic testing of concepts and ideas.

Based on these core aspects, there are several use cases across several industries and applications, including:

  • Design and Engineering: Utilized for conceptualizing and refining products before physical manufacturing.
  • Marketing and Sales: Offered as interactive product demos to potential customers for pre-launch feedback and engagement.
  • eCommerce: Integrated into online retail to give customers a 360-degree view of products, increasing confidence in purchasing decisions.
  • Training and Education: Used to create detailed models for instructional purposes without needing physical materials.

Don’t use virtual samples when you want a tactile experience, e.g., customer testing. However, do use this new tool to eliminate wasted time and resources in the design process. Eliminating physical prototypes is possible in a large number of cases – think about how you’d apply this tool in your industry. 

Embrace the Future of Proofing With Ashore

Virtual sample methods are more than just a tech novelty – they’re a big step forward in sustainable design practices. As the industry embraces efficiency and environmental responsibility, digital rendering and CAD tools stand at the forefront of the change. 

It’s a chance for companies to streamline inefficiencies, reduce unnecessary costs, and do their part for the planet. It’s a hallmark of responsible business practices. In the midst of this sustainable design revolution, integrating Ashore can significantly boost the effectiveness and efficiency of your design process. With Ashore’s automated workflows and diverse file type support, the journey from virtual sample to finalized design becomes more streamlined and collaborative than ever before. Revolutionize your proofing process with Ashore. Sign up for free today!

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