What is Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid prototyping, or RP, is a quick technique that’s used to create a working model of a physical part, component, or assembly. Usually, teams prefer this method to fix problems and save money before mass production. So, machinists work closely with designers and engineers to assemble an accurate representation based on a 3D computer-aided design (CAD). And most of the time, that’s done using additive manufacturing, which is commonly known as 3D printing.
How Does RP Work?
Different Rapid Prototyping Techniques
- Compressive – Experts take liquid or semi-solid material and mold it into a designated form while it is solidified using compressive sintering, molding, or casting.
- Subtractive- Machinists carve a block of raw material to create the desired shape through CNC turning, milling, or grinding.
What Are the 6 Types of Rapid Prototyping?
It’s important to understand material properties before settling on a rapid prototyping technique, and it’s crucial to review the different types of RP ahead of time. As such, these are your primary choices:
#1. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
It’s used for plastic and metal prototyping projects, with a powder bed to create the model one precision layer at a time. Using a focused laser to heat and sinter the material, the finished product is usually rougher and may require a secondary finish.
#2. Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
Sometimes called “powder bed fusion,” this process renders high-strength models of intricate parts. Thus, it’s one of the most favored techniques for aerospace, automotive, medical, and defense industries that require titanium, steel, and aluminum machining.
#3. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)
Also known as material jetting, this technique is simple and inexpensive. It uses a spool of thermoplastic filament to create a 3D printed model through layered CAD control. And while early applications were of poor quality, new FDM methods are standard for product development.
#4. Stereolithography/Vat Photopolymerization (SLA)
This quick, cost-effective method was the first successful technique to use 3D printing. The substance solidifies layer-by-layer with a photosensitive liquid bath and computer-controlled ultra-violet (UV) rays until the desired result is achieved.
#5. Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
Far less sophisticated than SLS or SLM, laminated object manufacturing is possible in nearly all conditions. LOM creates thin laminates after the material is cut with lasers or specialized tools. A CAD pattern design erupts and each layer gets bonded until the prototype is complete.
#6. Digital Light Processing (DLP)
Digital Light Processing, or DLP, uses the polymerization of resins after they’ve been cured with a more conventional light source than vat photopolymerization (SLA). This technique usually requires support structures and curing but it’s still faster and cheaper than some other methods.
What Are the Benefits of Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid prototyping has numerous uses, including some that may not even be on the radar until later. For example, RP models help design and engineering teams visualize products before they’re sent for mass production. However, prototypes also aid with troubleshooting, design changes, and experimentation across countless industries.
There is a variety of RP advantages to consider, such as gaining a more complete picture of the finished product and having time to make changes and/or improvements during the early stages of production. Meanwhile, rapid prototyping can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to complete. It all depends on the methods used.
Either way, it’s an inexpensive way to handle the unpredictable elements of an otherwise expensive project. It’s also an automated process most of the time, so clients end up spending far less money on labor to see their concepts become realities. Introducing computer-aided design (CAD) and/or automation can further reduce the need for staff, decrease material waste, prolong tool life, and limit costly errors on innovative products.
When a new product model is presented to board members using the right RP method, clients and investors take notice. Teams are more easily able to understand complex concepts and approve or disapprove of various developmental phases. This also helps designers get useful feedback from partners and customers based on a real physical representation of the finished product.
How Much Does RP Cost?
Rapid Prototyping Services Nearby
Pioneer cuts have vast experience and expertise in additive manufacturing, 3D printing processes, and rapid prototyping services. With advanced technologies and intuitive staff, we can help with all your RP requirements to help streamline small and large-scale manufacturing processes. Reach out to customer service or submit your information to get a 6-hour service quote today.