What are rapid prototyping tools?

What are rapid prototyping tools?

Rapid prototyping is a key process for industrial designers to ensure business excellence and favourable outcomes when it comes to design projects. This vital step in the design process can introduce new concepts to clients and help establish whether objectives will be met with an envisioned design – plus where tweaks will be needed.

Several 3D printing rapid prototyping tools are at the disposal of industrial designers – each with its own benefits and favourable outcomes. In today’s blog, we will be looking at what these 3D rapid prototyping tools are, and how each of these tools benefits industrial designers in their projects.

3D printing: various applications with incredible details for prototypes

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3D printing encompasses the most recognised rapid prototyping tools. Also called additive manufacturing, this process includes several different technologies – a.k.a. tools – to consider for creating prototypes.

Let’s take a closer look at the four most common 3D printing tools that industrial designers use to create prototypes based on the desired product outcomes that they are aiming for:

1. Stereolithography (SLA) and Digital Light Processing (DLP)

Stereolithography, often abbreviated as SLA, uses a photosensitive resin that is cured by a beam of ultraviolet light. When an ultraviolet lamp is used to cure the resin, the rapid prototyping tool that we are referring to is Digital Light Processing (DLP). Compared to one another, both tools can produce similar outcomes with exceptional quality.

2. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering uses the fusion of powders that melt and create a very strong bond. The types of powders used, whether metals, plastics, ceramics or even glass, will determine the final product. A laser beam, powered with a 3D-computer generated file, is used to melt the powders, layer per layer. Usually, the prototypes generated with SLS do not need additional supports as the powder bed provides a firm base.

3. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is one of the most popular rapid prototyping tools to use. Most 3D printers have this technology available; plus, it is an incredibly economical tool when it comes to producing first-run prototypes. Fused Deposition Modelling tools usually use materials such as PLA (Polylactic Acid), ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), PETG (A glycolated variant of PET), ASA, Nylon or TPU/TPE (flexible filament). What makes this tool different from SLS, is that it can create soluble supports that are easy to remove and that will not damage the quality of the prototype in any way.

4. Triple injection/ Polyjet

Industrial designers usually choose this 3D printing tool for rapid prototyping that requires using different materials and colours by combining Inkjet technology and photo-polymers. The materials used become solidify when they come in contact with ultraviolet light. A big benefit of this tool is that the process doesn’t include creating layers. There is also no processing involved; however, when industrial designers use Polyjet for creating certain prototype parts, it is more to show the aesthetic than the functionality of these parts (think of it is more supporting the overall final look of these parts).

Alternatives to 3D printing: Laser cutting and CNC (Machining): flexibility versus tried and tested traditional tools

5. Laser cutting

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Industrial designers who like using flexible rapid prototyping tools will likely opt for laser cutting. Laser cutting can be used for cutting various materials, such as wood, plastics and metal, making it an economical rapid prototyping tool that can be used to create various prototypes. Laser cutting can also be combined with bending, which means it isn’t limited to only creating linear prototypes  -it allows for a lot of definition and can be considered for mass production too. Several prototype parts can be created using laser cutting too.

6. CNC (Machining)

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CNC can be considered as one of the most traditional rapid prototyping tools. This process involves removing material from an initial block of the material of the part to, ultimately, create the shape of the planned prototype. Important to note, is that this rapid prototyping tool has somewhat limited technology, and won’t be able to deliver on deadlines within short timeframes.

However, if an industrial designer is looking at creating a prototype with metal parts that can be applied beyond the production process into production, CNC is a viable consideration.

Our favourite rapid prototyping tools: The Moss&Schmidt process and the rapid prototyping tools that we use most often

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At Moss&Schmidt, we apply those rapid prototyping tools that will deliver on our promise of prototypes that are inexpensive and that will not incur unnecessary costs, and that will be created swiftly without compromising on quality.

Our top list of rapid prototyping tools include:

  • 3D printing, which we use to creates solid, three-dimensional objects layer by layer.
  • CNC milling for highly detailed plastic models with longer deadlines for creation.
  • Short-run injection moulding to create quality moulds for the purpose of quick metal casting.
  • For creating detailed metal enclosures, laser cutting, etching and bending.

Rapid prototyping is a key step for us to ensure that, based on the prototypes created, a viable product will, ultimately, be created that will be ready for market and that will fulfil the purpose that it was created for. With cutting-edge and technologies, this goal can easily be reached, so if you are a potential client, remember to factor in rapid prototyping as part of your product design timeline – you will definitely benefit from a more detailed approach that can be tweaked and adapted as needed!

If you are a potential client and you are ready to experience an exceptional journey for your next project with amazing results, contact us today. We would love to hear from you and to provide the personal touch that we have become known and respected for as one of Melbourne’s leading industrial design teams!