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How to Choose Rapid Prototyping Process

by Joshua Stinson

Rapid prototyping has been around since 1980s. Different technological advancements have made it one of the top manufacturing practices. That is because it allows for faster production of prototypes and end-use products and parts. It is vital to note that different Rapid Prototyping Services¬†allow companies to validate their ideas, refine designs, test functionality, and other products’ parameters.

Common Rapid Prototyping Techniques

Additive Manufacturing

This technique is called 3D printing. The process involves fusing material in layers in 3D. Usually, this process is achieved by the use of a 3D printer. The process is classified further depending on the type of material. For instance, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is meant for plastics. In this case, it binds together powdered plastic. On the other hand, Fused Deposition modeling is meant for thermoplastic materials. For metals, you can make prototypes through Metal Laser Sintering.


In this case, the initial component or product is used as the reference model. Ideally, the prototype is used through an additive manufacturing process. After this, a mold made of rubber is formed and then cured. The mold is removed and filled with appropriate material for making identical parts. This process is recommended for the mass production of prototypes, especially those with complex geometries. Remember that this process involves several steps and may take more time as compared to other techniques.

Subtractive Manufacturing

The process involves eliminating material from solid blocks until you attain the required shape. Ideally, it is the opposite of additive manufacturing. For example, turning a part or using cutting tools as the case with milling or CNC machining.

There are other rapid prototyping techniques, such as object manufacturing. In this case, parts or layers are glued together. When the process is complete, machining or drilling may be done. This is a suitable technique for making large components when you have adequate raw materials.

Another technique is solid curing. In this case, a UV lamp and photopolymer are used with 3D printing. It helps make models, patterns, production parts, and prototypes. An important advantage of this product is that it does not need a support structure.

Selecting Rapid Prototyping

You should note that each rapid prototyping method is suited for certain applications. There are instances where a few techniques are combined to make a prototype. These are some of the things to consider when choosing a rapid prototyping method.

Desired Product Quality

What is the expected part or product quality? Do you want a functional prototype or a marketing one? Usually, the application determines the quality of a prototype you make.

Product Fidelity

How does the product feel and look? For marketing purposes, you may need aesthetically pleasing rapid prototypes.

Part Complexity

Do you want to achieve great complexity? In such a case, you need to use rapid prototyping tools that are precise and accurate.

Material Properties

There is a need to consider how durable the product should be. In this way, you can select the appropriate material for your prototype. Also, you should consider the quantity of prototypes you should make.

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