Subtractive vs. Additive Prototyping

Rapid Prototyping

Subtractive vs. Additive Prototyping

Before you put out a product, it helps to make a prototype. A prototype helps you get a feel of the product, how it looks, works, weighs, etc. More importantly, it also helps you find possible flaws, so adjustments can be made before the final product is manufactured.

Not sure which process best suits your needs. At Moss&Schmidt we have the knowledge to put your new product on the right track.

Rapid prototyping

Not so long ago, prototypes were produced the same way as finished products. They had to be manufactured but on a limited scale. This was expensive and took time.

Nowadays, companies don’t have to do that anymore. The fastest way to produce a prototype is via rapid prototyping. This is usually done via two methods: subtractive prototyping and additive prototyping.

Subtractive Prototyping

In this rapid prototyping process, materials are subtracted to form the prototype you want.

Remember how they make sculptures in the old times? An artist chips away at a solid block of marble until a figure is formed that has been in the block all the while. That’s how subtractive prototyping works. However, with today’s rapid prototyping process; a machine is used to grind and mill away at a solid piece of material to produce a prototype.

Additive Prototyping

The opposite of subtractive prototyping is additive prototyping.

In this rapid prototyping process, materials are added to form the prototype you want. This is done with 3D printing where a printer lays down layer upon layer of a material until the form of the prototype is complete.

Which is better?

If you want to use rapid prototyping to get a feel of your proposed products, what method should you use?

Both have their advantage and disadvantages. Subtractive prototyping can be cheaper because it doesn’t require a 3D printing machine and can even be done with lathes and grinding machines.

With subtractive rapid prototyping, you can also use a range of materials since the only quality that material has to have is to be cut yet still retain its form.

Simple designs that don’t require 3D printing can be done via subtractive prototyping.

However, there are also details that only a 3D printing machine can produce. For example; complicated internal details. This cannot easily be produced using the subtractive method.

However, with additive rapid prototyping, you are limited in your use of materials since it has to be a material that can be extruded from a 3D printing machine, and right now those materials are limited.

Whatever rapid prototyping process you choose will ultimately depend on the type of product you want to make a prototype of, what material you want it made from, and your budget.


Whether it’s subtractive prototyping or additive prototyping you need, we can help you produce that prototype in no time. Contact Moss&Schmidt if you are interested.