Rapid prototyping opens the gateway to extensive user insights for a robust product design. There are numerous processes to follow when designing a rapid prototype.  Opting for the correct process is crucial to develop the perfect prototype.

In this comprehensive guide, you will learn about different types of rapid prototyping processes available in the market. 

So, let’s get started!

A Brief About Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping refers to the initial phase of the product’s development procedure. It helps manufacture different parts of the product to test its form, function, and fit. Once the rapid prototype is formed, its design is called the MVP or Minimum Viable Product. 

The chief aim of prototype manufacturing involves getting effective user feedback and insights in the early stage. It paves the way to a more refined design that satisfactorily caters to all user needs. 

Benefits of Rapid Prototyping

Have a glance at the top benefits of rapid prototyping that save both your time and resources.

  • Faster product design

When you use rapid prototyping, you will witness an increase in development speed with precise design dimensions. Thus, your entire development process gets streamlined.

  • Early product validation

Designing a prototype is excellent for validating all development objectives beforehand. Instead of rigorous testing later in the product designing step, rapid prototyping ensures an ideal design and smooth functioning earlier in the process. 

  • Valuable Feedback

The feedback received in the prototyping stage is of utmost importance. Furthermore, this gives you hands-on experience by testing multiple product iterations. This helps in yielding the desired product. 

Different processes in 3D rapid prototyping

  • CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) Machining

Here, a solid block of plastic or metal is fixed into a CNC lathe to create the final product by using the subtractive process. The process is quite famous in plastic prototype manufacturing. The end product has a better finish and superior strength than the products made through additive processes. As a solid block of plastic or metal is used in the process, the final product possesses homogenous properties.

Moreover, there is a wide selection of materials available for the process. Also, the wide range gives the process an edge in creating parts with different material properties. The best thing about the process is that one can deliver custom prototypes swiftly to the suppliers.

  • SLA (Stereolithography)

SLA incorporates UV light for creating solid plastics from photosensitive liquids. It is one of the oldest methods available in the 3D printing industry. The process is best suited to fabricate top-quality prototypes, master patterns, and complicated geometrical designs.

A laser controlled by a computer creates the whole shape and gives a smooth finish to the end product. The process is fast and does not add much stress to the budget. Moreover, there are several sources available for the usage of SLA technology.

  • FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)

As the name suggests, the thermoplastic is melted in the barrel of the nozzle of the 3D printer in the FDM process before creating the layers of the product. You have to make a supported format of the object to feed it to the 3D printer. Commonly, .STL format is used in the industry.

The process is scalable, budget-friendly, clean, and safe. Even students in schools can use this process to create different 3D prototypes.

  • RIM (Reactive Injection Molding)

The RIM process injects the liquid chemical into the molds at a low pressure, where the compound reacts and takes the shape of the cavity. The low-pressure setting allows the use of composite molds rather than steel and aluminum ones, reducing the overall cost of the whole process.

The final products are flexible, strong, and lightweight. They can be easily pained for an excellent finish. Besides this, the process has a quick cycle time as compared to the vacuum-cast materials.

  • SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)

SLS is another additive manufacturing process where a CO2 laser fuses the powdered thermoplastics into solid parts. The computer creates the object in the bottom-to-up approach. There is a bed of powder where the laser makes the first layer of the object by fusing it. After that, the roller lays another layer of powder, and the process repeats to create further layers. 

The process is used to create complex geometric designs and durable prototypes. It offers a better precision level than the SLA process. However, the material is limited for the process, and the parts have a grainy finish.

Final Verdict

Rapid prototyping is the essence of developing the product with finesse. Always remember that companies that follow rapid prototyping earn incredible success at a fast pace. This is because of their remarkable speed in designing and accuracy in functioning.

Now you are well aware of all the top processes used in rapid prototyping. It is essential to pick the one that simplifies your job tasks and makes your prototype ready in a short span.