31 May Is rapid prototyping the same as 3D printing?
When it comes to rapid prototyping and 3D printing, these two concepts are often seen as basically the same – especially as they are very closely aligned with one another during the process of developing prototypes and initial concepts.
However, rapid prototyping and 3D printing are not the same, although they are used interchangeably in different industries. Both are used for layered 3D models based on STL data are created, and both benefit design teams to create designs of excellence. Yet, there are notable differences.
In today’s blog, we will take a look at what 3D printing involves, provide a refresher on rapid prototyping, and show how these two different phrases enhance industrial designers’ scope of work. Let’s first take a look at 3D printing.
What exactly is 3D printing, and does it have any disadvantages?
3D printing is an exciting part of the manufacturing process that provides a digital image in 3D format, which is then converted into a physical object. Often considered to be slightly cheaper than rapid prototyping, due to lower maintenance costs, 3D printing doesn’t require extensive training.
It is also a successful method to test and compare different designs, which allows designers to make informed decisions on where to tweak or update a design if it can be done better. Furthermore, 3D printing offers the flexibility for industrial designers to be creative and to create high-quality prototypes that can have different sizes and dimensions.
3D printing does have its drawbacks, though. 3D printers are sometimes considered to be less accurate, and they are limited to certain materials, such as PVC. Also, 3D printing can often take a little longer when designs need to be sketched out first, and if high levels of accuracy are needed, the process will also require a little more time.
Understanding rapid prototyping and its link to 3D printing
Rapid prototyping is a process that is synonymous with industrial design. With this method, industrial designers can swiftly create prototypes, with the help of computer-aided design (CAD) software. The manufacturing of this prototype’s parts is usually done with 3D printing or additive layer manufacturing technology.
Another big benefit of rapid prototyping is that it can reduce possible manufacturing risks and test various materials before manufacturing commences. This poses a big benefit for clients especially when budgets are tight, as they will get the peace of mind that their final product will be crafted from the best materials and that it will not add waste to the manufacturing process.
Compared to 3D printing, rapid prototyping requires technology that is more expensive; however, it is an effective process that allows industrial designers to create prototypes fast and efficiently. Rapid prototyping also has a higher level of accuracy and can provide parts with better finishes. It is more time-efficient than traditional design processes and can minimise material wastage too.
Clearing up the difference between 3D printing and rapid prototyping
Despite many industries referring to 3D printing and rapid prototyping as one and the same concept, it is definitely not. Rapid prototyping can be seen as a technique, whereas 3D printing is a technology that can be used in rapid prototyping.
3D printing also doesn’t need to be used just for rapid prototyping, and can be used in industries spanning from education to healthcare and beyond. An example of 3D printing in education is where students can create and weigh up different design concepts, testing their look and feel and then deciding on final designs.
Combined benefits for industrial designers
Looking at both 3D printing and rapid prototyping, it is easy to see that both processes are closely intertwined. Industries such as engineering and architecture often make use of 3D printing during their rapid prototyping processes, which also ensures that they save time and do not delay development time.
As seen above, both 3D printing and rapid prototyping come with several benefits, and from a business perspective, both processes can generate satisfying results for product development. Also, as technologies for both rapid prototyping and 3D printing develop, benefits are sure to evolve even further.
The verdict? 3D printing and rapid prototyping are a perfect combination!
Ultimately, 3D printing enhances rapid prototyping workflows. It is an additive manufacturing process that can enhance the prototype creation phase for any industrial designers, and ensure that the design thereof is time-saving and cost-efficient.
And when done right, both 3D printing and rapid prototyping can help you achieve your business goals without needing to hire several external parties to get the job done. So, choose a design team that will help you bring your business vision to life in a cost-effective, accurate and professional manner that will have your product market-ready in a workable timeframe.
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