Fast fabrication of physical parts, assembly, or models is known as rapid prototyping. The process of rapid prototyping is assisted by the use of CAD (Computer-aided design). 3D printing is used for the completion of a model or assembly designed on CAD.
If you’re into the design and architecture field, you probably are aware of rapid prototyping. However, we bring a comprehensive guideline about rapid prototyping for those who aren’t already familiar with the platform. Rapid prototyping services can help to bring significant changes to your business.
When should a company employ rapid prototyping?
Rapid prototyping refers to the process of creating or assembling the physical parts of a model. The fast fabrication procedure is implied into making the design with 3D Computer-aided design (CAD).
This a comprehensive group of techniques that eventually helps in the creation of a scaling model. The additive layer manufacturing technology can play an essential role in constructing the particular part.
Rapid prototyping has brought about several manufacturing technologies. Additive manufacturing is one of the most commonly used rapid prototyping. It may use two different processes- subtractive and compressive.
If the design looks similar to the final product, it is known as a high-fidelity prototype. However, if the final product and prototype reflect a difference, it refers to the low fidelity prototype.
Rapid prototyping history
What was the first rapid prototyping technology to go commercial? The first method for rapid prototyping was introduced back in the 1980s—the initial method catered to creating prototype and model parts. The popularity of application of rapid prototyping became common during 1987 with the coming in on stereolithography technology.
Stereolithography technology refers to a process that leads to the solidification of ultraviolet light-sensitive liquid polymers with laser technology.
Over the years, rapid prototyping measures significantly developed, and different advanced technologies were used for the same. Some of the most common and popular types of rapid prototyping were fused deposition modeling, object manufacturing, and selective laser sintering.
Stratasys was the first to revolutionize the rapid prototyping industry by implementing 3D techniques on the FDM technology in April 1992. Objet launched the first 3D system for rapid prototyping in April 2000. The project was named Polyjet Technology.
Several innovations and improvements have been brought into the rapid prototyping industry to boost mass production capabilities and increase production speed.
Why is rapid prototyping used?
The world is moving at a fast pace, and hence, the technologies are developing too. In times like these, it becomes extremely crucial to adopt measures that can help your business grow. The market competition is increasing.
Hence, businesses need to look out for new and innovative measures for introducing and promoting their products. Rapid prototyping can indeed be one of the best technologies for promoting the market’s products’ popularity.
Rapid prototyping ensures faster development and better innovations. This plays a vital role in ensuring the popularity of your products over that of the customers. Rapid prototyping is a convenient method that is suitable for all types of materials. This versatile technique can further be beneficial for a wide range of applications.
Rapid prototyping often involves highly functional elements that can help to create 3D models. While concept models only give birth to ideas and assumptions about the products, the physical models can play an important role in enhancing the functionality.
Who uses rapid prototyping?
Since the developers get to view the physical model, they will analyze the flaws (if any) and determine how it can benefit them.
The functional prototypes can help developers and manufacturers analyze what the final product would look like. As a result, before moving on to the next stage of production, the developers can easily manage and bring changes in their model if it is required.
The developers have the flexibility to test its function, structure, mobility, and manufacturability. This further helps save a lot of money than restarting the product after any flaw has been detected in the final product.
A workable prototype is extremely beneficial and economically helpful for brands. This helps to maintain a proper balance between functionality and aesthetics. Compared to the development of the final model, a prototype is highly beneficial.
How does rapid prototyping work?
Rapid prototyping follows additive manufacturing technology. The process follows the initial steps of creating a virtual model of the final product before launching it in the market. The CAD software has an essential role to play in the development of prototype models.
Rapid prototyping follows standard data processing and can produce many 3D models within a short time. However, the number of models produced will significantly depend on the number and size of models that are to be produced using a specific type of machine.
The additive layer manufacturing technology of rapid prototyping is created using different technologies such as molding, casting, high-speed machining, and extruding.
In the case of additive manufacturing, different processes play an essential role in building up the prototypes. These two processes are:
- Subtractive: Turning, milling, and grinding play an important role in creating a particular form.
- Compressive: The semi-solid and liquid material is further altered using different processes like compressive sintering, molding, and casting.
What are the different types of rapid prototyping?
The development in rapid prototyping has only helped to ease technology. This further caters to the different needs. Some of the most common fast prototyping types include the following.
Rapid 3D printing Prototyping
3D printing is one of the most common and known forms of prototyping. The main features of the final model are assembled using additive layer technology or 3D printing. This form is a faster way of achieving desired results for what the final product would look like.
3D printing service is often used to make models in the fields of rapid prototyping manufacturing mold manufacturing and industrial design, and then gradually used in the direct manufacturing of some products.
3D Printing technology is used in rapid prototyping design services, jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, firearms, and other application fields.
Sheet Metal Rapid Prototyping
Sheet metal rapid prototyping is a fast and cost-effective solution for accessing all your important documents. It follows comprehensive procedures like bending, cutting standard gauge, and bending. This helps to create durable end-use metal parts.
The sheet metal rapid prototyping is used for different industries such as energy, robotics, medical devices, automotive, and aerospace. The sheet metal used for rapid prototyping has a thickness of 0.006 inches to 0.25 inches.
CNC Rapid Prototyping
CNC Rapid prototyping provides the benefit of using computerized equipment for better-engineered models and fast-turnaround of the prototypes. This plays an important role in creating high-quality end-use materials.
Compared to other prototyping processes, CNC rapid prototyping is fast and can play an important role in designing even the most complex elements in the simplest ways.
CNC rapid prototyping may use different procedures like plastic injection molding and pressure die casting to create the actual element. In many cases, it will pave the way to create rigid metals in a standard form.
Moreover, the models developed using CNC rapid prototyping are easy to alter or modify. This procedure works with different materials, thereby providing extensive benefits in the long run.
Rapid Injection Molding Prototyping
With the help of rapid Injection molding, prototypes of injection modeled parts are created. The thermoplastic resin allows the creation of these modeled parts within 2-5 weeks.
One of the most significant benefits of rapid injection molding prototyping is creating prototype models using different materials and colors. This further plays an important role in maintaining flexibility through the molds.
The CNC machines usually help in the creation of rapid injection molding prototyping. The process also follows a bridge-to-production method which can allow creating thousands of parts.
Vacuum Rapid Prototype Casting
Vacuum rapid prototype casting has become extremely efficient and ensures faster development of prototype models. This is a flexible method that can help to create high-quality models.
It helps to cast resins and silicone models. It will be made available across different patterns and helps to remove any potential bubbles. Vacuum rapid prototype casting can play an essential role in maintaining the material’s quality while ensuring faster buildup and versatility in creating a prototype.
Rapid Prototyping Process
What is a rapid manufacturing process? There are different types of rapid prototyping processes, and each of them has the benefit of its own.
Stereolithography is also known as Vat Photopolymerization and is instead a fast method of creating commercial 3D prints. The photosensitive liquid is used in the procedure, which is eventually solidified layer-per-layer with computer-controlled ultraviolet light.
Material Jetting is also known as fused deposition modeling and one of the most inexpensive procedures used commonly for non-industrial 3D printers.
In this technique, the thermoplastic filament is attached to the printing nozzle barrel before the final product is laid down layer-by-layer as per the actual design. The initial results are weak, but the process is only improving. This procedure is the most beneficial for product development as it is cheap and fast.
Selective Laser Sintering
Selective Laser Sintering is one of those procedures that is used for plastic prototyping and metal prototyping. This process utilizes a power bed to create the prototype. Lasers are used to heat the material. The final prototype may not be as strong as the prototype of stereolithography.
However, the final prototype needs proper finishing along with secondary touch.
Selective Laser Melting
The selective laser melting procedure is also known as powder bed fusion, which helps create durable and complex parts. Selective laser melting is often used in different industries such as defense, automotive, aerospace, and medical.
In this procedure, the fine metal powder is applied in a layered manner to create the prototype. The manufacturers may use a high-powered laser or electron beam. The most common SLM materials beneficial for rapid prototyping are stainless steel, cobalt chrome alloys, aluminum, and titanium.
Laminated Object Manufacturing
Laminated Object Manufacturing or LOM is also known as sheet lamination. Although LOM isn’t as effective as SLM or SLS, there is no extensive requirement for controlled conditions.
In the LOM procedure, the thin laminates used are made even in shape. The thin laminates are cut using laser beams to create a CAD pattern design. Every layer is attached one over the other to ensure accurate design.
Digital Light Processing
Digital Light Processing is also known as DLP and has similar functionalities to SLA. This procedure uses resin polymerization. Although similar to SLA, it is relatively cheap and fast. Hence, DLP plays an important role in building post-build curing and support structures.
Continuous Liquid Interface Production
The alternative version of DLP is known as CLIP or Continuous Liquid Interface Production. In this process, the part is directly pulled out without using the layers.
When the particular part is pulled from the vat, it helps create a light barrier that further leads to alteration in configuration, thereby allowing the creation of a customized, cross-sectional design on the particular prototype material.
This is one of the rarely used prototyping measures because the results aren’t as strong as SLS. In the binder jetting procedure, multiple parts can be printed at the same time. Binder jetting also follows the powder bed process and nozzle sprayed micro-fine droplets are attached to create a strong bond between the layers of particles.
Every layer is compacted using a roller before applying another powder layer. Once a particular layer is completed, another one is applied over it. When the entire process is finished, the binding agent is burnt off, and powder is fused into a coherent part.
What Are the Rapid prototyping advantages and disadvantages?
Rapid prototyping is rather a newer introduction in the industry. Although it has been there since the 1980s, the recent technology changes have played an important role in boosting the impact. Hence, the process has its advantages and disadvantages.
1. What are the Advantages of Rapid Prototyping?
Over the years, several businesses have switched to using rapid prototyping, considering the benefits it has to offer. Rapid prototyping is beneficial for engineers, design, and development teams. Some of the common rapid prototyping advantages include
It helps them analyze the concepts easily. Efficiency further plays an important role in saving time and cost. The team has the flexibility to visualize what the product would look like. As a result, everyone can grasp what the properties and designs of the product will be.
The designers and engineers can constantly offer designs and make changes if required in the evaluation and testing procedure. This paves the way for better development of the final product.
The engineers, manufacturers, and development teams will collaborate better to create a useful concept. The two-dimensional images may not provide an accurate representation of the product. With rapid prototyping, the team members can communicate effectively about the product and bring them into action.
Rapid prototyping brings in the concept of testing and refining the qualities thoroughly. This helps to understand the design flaw and eventually overcome it. If you can minimize the design flaws in the initial stages without developing the actual project, you will save money for the same development.
In rapid prototyping, not many tools are necessary, which is why they can play an important role in saving money and time. The same equipment can be used to create prototypes of different materials with different properties. As a result, it would help to keep the expenditure at the lowest.
2. What are the disadvantages of rapid prototyping?
While rapid prototyping is exceptionally crucial for designers, there are certain limitations of using the same. If you’re using this concept to design your final product, you will need to consider many things.
Hence, some of the common disadvantages of rapid prototyping include the following.
- Lacks accuracy
- Initially, the cost may be high
- Many rapid prototyping methods are not economically efficient but expensive
- The strength and surface finish of the final products will vary from the actual ones
- It has a limited materialistic range.
- Some of the most important features for the materials will often need to be overlooked. This is mainly because many of these features cannot be prototyped.
- It might create a gap or misunderstanding between the user objectives. While the customers will consider the prototype to be the final product, it may not be the same.
Rapid Prototyping Materials
What are the materials used in rapid prototyping?
Rapid prototyping materials are developed to match the end product specification. ABS, acrylic, polyphenylsulfone, polycarbonate, and nylon are among the few commonly used rapid prototyping materials.
Different materials have a key role in determining the impact of the same. Each material brings in a different level of durability and strength. Here are the rapid prototyping materials
Rapid prototyping and manufacturing can be done using various materials. Metal tapid prototyping includes techniques like CNC machining, casting, or sheet metal forming.
Rapid prototyping products can take months in detailed construction. Metal prototyping services are the most viable among others in terms of their strength and durability.
Metal Prototyping requires creating metal prototypes using different metal manufacturing techniques such as casting, sheet metal forming, and CNC machining. Different metals may be used by the engineering team, such as aluminum and steel. These are used primarily to suit the functional purposes and aesthetic requirements of the clients.
Metal rapid prototyping is suitable in the case of functional prototypes, hybrid prototypes, and pre-production prototypes. Metal is often the best material of all and has most of the required characteristics for rapid prototyping parts.
Metal rapid prototyping is also perfect for some specific results, such as for conductive and ductile purposes. Molds are often created while using metal prototyping instead of using other cheap materials like plastic.
Plastic rapid prototyping is machined from polystyrene, ABS, or rigid polyurethane foam. An alternate method of rapid plastic prototyping is to cast a liquid thermosetting resin into a mold, where it then hardens to form a final prototype.
Plastic prototypes are designed via stereolithography (SLA), where a 3D part is punched from a vat of liquid photopolymer by a CNC-directed UV laser.
Plastic rapid prototyping is one of the slowest ones to make because of the involvement of injection molding. This is a unique procedure but can effectively help with the creation of huge numbers of plastic prototypes. It helps create deep features, square holes, and hinges which is only possible with plastic prototyping.
Many printing methods use an extrusion phenomenon to deposit plastic material in layers until the finished prototype is created. Plastic prototyping services include injection molding, vacuum casting, and SLS plastic prototype printing.
The most suitable service for rapid plastic prototyping is CNC machining and fabrication. These processes are fast, offer a more comprehensive surface finish selection, and produce larger prototypes.
Powder-based rapid prototyping
Screen printers’ design and development of powder-based materials will also be carried out. Compact powder in thin layers of fine powder is used in powder-based fast prototyping techniques. An entity is formed by the stacking of these local material layers. 3D powder printing applications are SLS, 3dp, etc.
In powder-based rapid prototyping, the powder compaction is used to create different layers of fine powder. The thin layers are further attached and locally bonded to create an object. However, this method is used only to create the same prototypes with similar or specific characteristics.
Powder-based prototyping material properties include size, fusibility of particles, thermal and optical characteristics (which are bottlenecks in achieving required mechanical results), feature resolution, surface quality, and end product accuracy.
Solid-based rapid prototyping
Solid-based simple synthesis technologies are intended to accommodate all types of solid forming materials. Wire, laminates, rolls, or a pellet can also be used as solid-based prototypes. Two main concepts apply to strong, fast prototyping systems—first, cutting and gluing—secondly, the process of fusion and solidification.
Both the above processes are different from each other. In some cases, laser techniques are used for the process of fabrication of the prototype. 3D printing and prototyping are done after the utilization of all material in a solid-state. FDM and ABS are some services of solid-based rapid prototyping.
It helps to create prototypes of all forms within the solid state. It may further help create the prototype in any of its shapes like laminate, pellets, rolls, and even wire. Solid-based rapid prototyping usually follows two different principles like joining method or fusing method. Both processes are different from one another but are fabricated using laser technology.
Rapid Prototyping Cost
One of the most common questions of people is what is the cost of rapid prototyping. The rapid prototyping cost usually varies depending on the mold’s size, the number of units being produced, procedure, material, and desired final result.
Costing is divided into three main categories:
- Rapid prototype testing
- Rapid prototype Designing
- Rapid prototype Manufacturing
How much does rapid prototyping cost?
The question is quite difficult to answer without a specific drawing. The machining method, material, quantity, surface finishing, and labor cost are factors that bear the final cost.
3D printing is ideal for producing a simple prototype, which costs less than most processes. However, there are a few other methods that can be used quickly and cost-effectively. An approximated distribution is mentioned below:
- -3D manufacturing or SLA for the first component can price approximately 10 USD.
- -Speedy CNC design prices for initial training start at 80 USD.
- For a silicone mold and just 1 to 2 bits, vacuum casting will cost around USD 150.
The pricing deviates from the quantity of the prototype units. Large production will cut down the cost of your prototype.
Rapid Prototyping in China would cost less than that of the charges in the US and Europe. According to experts, you can save around 30% of the manufacturing cost when you choose cheap rapid prototyping in China.
Hence, many businesses prefer choosing rapid prototyping services in China over the others because of the benefits it has to offer.
You should first analyze what type of rapid prototyping you want and then consult the experts regarding the price.
Rapid Prototyping Applications
What are the applications of rapid prototyping?
Rapid prototyping technologies can essentially suit different materials and requirements. This is hailed to be one of the most versatile techniques that can be used for different benefits. Some of the most common applications of rapid prototyping include the following.
Product designers always consider it a fast and effective process. With concept models’ help, the designers can easily explain to clients their ideas and achieve them using the same. But when the designers have a physical model, they will explain to stakeholders precisely the benefit of using it and how it can be implemented in daily life.
Designers mainly use rapid prototyping to create representative prototype parts. This plays an important role in creating visualization and helping with the development procedure before developing the final product.
Initially, rapid prototyping was used to create small-scale models, especially for the automobile industry. But in today’s time, this procedure is being used for other industries as well, like in medical and aerospace.
Rapid tooling is also one of the most important uses of rapid prototyping.
Rapid prototype application majorly includes industrial and medicinal use. Rapid prototyping options are available according to the needs of the consumer and the related market.
Industrial prototypes include parts and scale modeling, molds for bulk production, tooling, lightweight components, etc. The wall panels (FDM), air duct (SLS), and structural metal components are few examples of parts that can be manufactured with fast prototyping and production (DMLS, EBM, DED). Many other technologies are also required to satisfy the end-product requirements.
The growth of the health care sector is driven by medical prototyping. Diagnoses for radiation, including MRI and CT scan, is widely based on rapid prototypes and their application. 3D printing is used to make medical instruments; for example, testing kits are manufactured in bulk through rapid prototyping technologies.
Is Rapid Prototyping the same as 3D printing?
3D printing/prototyping and rapid prototyping design are often confused as the same thing;
One of the most common mistakes people tend to make is confusing rapid prototyping to be the same as 3D printing. 3D printing is a part of additive manufacturing technology. But, rapid prototyping is one of the uses of additive manufacturing technology.
Rapid prototyping is mainly used at the industrial level, while 3D printing is used mainly at the consumer level. 3D printing is a complex procedure that requires milling and turning to add layers to create a model.
However, in rapid prototyping, the process is implied to develop small-scale parts or a final product model with computer-aided design software.
3D printing is the manufacturing process, while prototyping stands for the end product. Hence, a combination of 3D printing techniques will further help to create rapid prototyping technology. Therefore, 3D printing prototypes are pretty different from the general ones.
The rapid prototyping industry has gradually developed in the past few years. The massive changes brought in technology have also helped to bridge the communication gap between designers and users. It is advisable to choose the best rapid prototyping companies to get extensive benefits.
The evolution from the 1980s to today is quite evident by the number of techniques and materials implied to create the same. If you start your rapid prototyping business, you will need to determine how the future would be like. Nonetheless, for now, it has undoubtedly eased the way of working for businesses.