What is rapid prototyping?
Rapid prototyping refers to the technology of using a 3D printer to turn a computer-aided design (CAD) file into a physical model. The technology emerged in the 1980s and is now commonly referred to as 3D printing or additive manufacturing, as the technology involves adding layers of material to build the final object. The term rapid prototyping was used in its early days to refer to the technology’s ability to quickly fabricate a product, bypassing many steps needed in traditional manufacturing methods.
What’s the process of rapid prototyping a product?
To rapidly prototype a product means to turn the expression of a 2D drawing into a 3D digital file using a CAD (computer-aided design) program, then feeding that digital data into a 3D printer to create a physical, tangible object. Prototyping is typically a development process that involves multiple stages to meet the needs of developing a new product. From a conceptual design to an end-use ready model, designers go through multiple iterations to create and refine prototypes before a final product is able to meet all the necessary design and functionality requirements.
How long does rapid prototyping take to develop a product?
While the time needed to rapidly prototype will vary depending on the purpose and complexity of the desired product, prototyping is typically done in multiple stages where each progressive iteration will be done to meet the goals for each stage. From conception to fit to functionality and in some cases, regulatory requirements, using 3D printing can save considerable time as each prototype can be done in a matter of hours compared to weeks or months when traditional manufacturing methods are used.
What is rapid prototyping used for?
For the fastest turnaround in fabrication, rapid prototyping allows you to bring a design from an idea to a tangible object in a time- and cost-effective way. Rapid prototyping eliminates the need for expensive molds and tooling, saving months of development time while minimizing upfront costs. For products involving complex geometries, the technology allows much more flexibility and intricacy that can be difficult to achieve with traditional manufacturing techniques.
What materials can be used for rapid prototyping?
The most commonly used material in early prototyping stages is Versatile Plastic, or commonly known as Nylon 12. This is a durable nylon plastic that can be used for a wide range of applications, both for prototyping and for end products. For later prototyping stages, materials with different properties are used for more realistic presentations and for functionality and durability tests. Shapeways offers a wide range of materials from clear plastic for architectural models to multi-color prints for visual prototypes to precious metals for jewelry designs.
What are some use-cases for rapid prototyping?
Shapeways has worked with many businesses for a range of rapid prototyping needs. Some examples include:
- How Quantum Systems uses 3D printing to prototype and streamline their drone manufacturing process, saving significant time and costs.
- My Track Technology uses 3D printing for smart manufacturing, without investing hundreds of thousands in acquiring industrial printers
Learn more about Rapid Prototyping.