3D printers are a wonderful tool for rapid prototyping designs. They do need a little patience at first, experimenting to find the right printing temperature ranges and speeds, but once that small hurdle is passed the majority of prints work first time, making it a really fast way to turn an idea into a physical object.
The process starts with mocking-up an initial design idea, to scale, in a 3D application (I can recommend Blender, 123D Design, SketchUp). Exporting the file in STL format. An application called a slicer (e.g. Cura) then takes the 3D shape and cuts it into thin horizontal 2D sections, all ready for the printer to lay down, layer by layer. Once you’ve got the hang of the tool chain, you can go from making a design change to a fresh new finished print in a little over half an hour (the current prototype design takes about 34min to print).
For the last few weeks Light Log enclosures have gone through over 80 such design cycles, two different hardware form-factors, with over 40 cases printed, physically tested and warn, in 5 different material finishes using 11 different colours!