What are the different types of rapid prototyping?

What are the different types of rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is one of the biggest draw cards that industrial designers offer to their clients. This vital step provides a visual representation of new concepts that can assist design teams with tweaking and adjusting designs as needed, based on client feedback and their own discoveries.

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In today’s blog, we will be delving into what the different types of rapid prototyping are, what the benefits of each type are and what the overall advantages of rapid prototyping are.

But first, let’s quickly explain how the rapid prototyping process works.

A quick look at how the rapid prototyping process works

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Rapid prototyping is usually done by using CAD, or 3D-computer-assisted design, that allows industrial designers to construct physical parts of product models. These prototypes can be defined as either being high fidelity, if it matches the planned final product closely, or low fidelity where differences are greater between the prototype and envisioned final product.

One of the most popular rapid prototyping technologies layered additive manufacturing, although others, such as high-speed machining, casting and moulding are also often used.

During the additive manufacturing process, industrial designers will opt for either subtractive or compressive processes to construct their prototypes. Subtractive processes involve a piece of material being shaped into a desired form, using milling, grinding or turning. Compressive, on the other hand, involves using milling, grinding or turning to turn a semi-solid or liquid material into a specific form before hardening.

Now, let’s look at the different types of rapid prototyping.

Unpacking the different types of prototyping and their advantages

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There are about seven prototyping categories in rapid prototyping. These include the following:

1. Stereolithography (SLA) or Vat Photopolymerisation

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This process is one of the most time- and cost-efficient types of rapid prototyping. It is considered one of the first 3D commercial printing processes to work and involves using photosensitive liquid that is transformed into solid layers with the use of a computer-controlled ultraviolet light.

2. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

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SLS can be used for either metal or plastic prototyping, and utilises layers of powder during the production of a prototype. A high-power laser is used to heat and shape the powdered material. Although SLS prototypes are considered weaker than SLA prototypes, they are still cost-effective and can be completed in a short time.

3. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) or Material Jetting

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FDM has improved significantly over the years and also offer the benefit of being a cost-effective process for rapid prototyping that is easy to use. FDM can be found in many non-industrial desktop 3D printers, and involves the process of using thermoplastic filaments that are melted inside a printing nozzle barrel. The nozzle will then place liquid plastic layer-by-layer with the help of a computer deposition program.

4. Selective Laser Melting (SLM) or Powder Bed Fusion

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SLM is perfect if a design calls for high-strength, complex parts. Typically, this process will be used by industries such as aerospace and automotive professions.

SLM makes use of a fine metal powder that is melted layer by layer to build prototypes with the help of lasers or electron beams. Materials used for SLM often include titanium, aluminium, stainless steel and cobalt chrome alloys.

5. Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) or Sheet Lamination

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Although LOM is considered not as sophisticated as SLM or SLS, it has the benefit of being pocket-friendly and it doesn’t need specially controlled conditions either.

During the LOM process, a series of thin laminates that have been laser cut are used to create a CAD pattern design. Each layer is placed on top of the previous one until the prototype is complete.

6. Digital Light Processing (DLP)

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Similar to SLA, DLP makes use of the polymerisation of resins which are cured using a light source. Although DLP can be done quicker and at a lower cost than SLA, it does sometimes need additional support structures.

Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) is another version of DLP that involves a part being repeatedly pulled from a vat, without using layers.

7. Binder Jetting

Binder jetting is a time-efficient process that allows for multiple printing at a time. Binder jetting makes use of a powder bed onto which nozzles spray tiny liquid droplets that will bond the powder particles together to form each layer.

The advantages of rapid prototyping

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Because of its automated nature, rapid prototyping is truly a cost-effective way to create prototypes that can minimise the risk of costly errors by pinpointing areas of improvement in a design early on. Also, because it doesn’t rely on using multiple tools for each project, there is less delay in creating something tangible to base findings on.

Rapid prototyping also allows industrial designers to give clients a physical preview of products that can help to understand how their final products will likely look and enable them to make decisions about adjustments or approval.

This is thanks to the precise nature of rapid prototyping that leaves less room for error and minimises the risk of waste during the productions phase of products.

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With incredible flexibility, rapid prototyping is a valuable service offering for clients that will ensure that their vision is translated correctly into a planned product. It is the perfect guarantee for project success, and will without a doubt keep on improving as technologies evolve.

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!