Rapid Prototyping – The Most Comprehensive Guide

Rapid Prototyping – The Most Comprehensive Guide

The rapid manufacture of physical parts, assemblies, or models is known as rapid prototyping. The rapid prototyping process is assisted by the use of CAD (Computer Aided Design). 3D printing is used to complete a CAD-designed model or assembly.

If you are in the field of design and architecture, you are probably aware of rapid prototyping. However, we bring a comprehensive guide on rapid prototyping for those who are not yet familiar with the platform. Rapid prototyping services can help make significant changes to your business.

When should a company employ rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping refers to the process of creating or assembling the physical parts of a model. The rapid manufacturing procedure is implicit in the realization of the 3D computer aided design (CAD) design.
This is a comprehensive group of techniques that eventually helps in the creation of a scale model. Additive layer fabrication technology can play a critical role in the construction of the particular part.

Rapid prototyping has resulted in various manufacturing technologies. Additive manufacturing is one of the most widely used rapid prototypes. You can use two different processes: subtractive and compressive.

If the design resembles the final product, it is known as a hi-fi prototype. However, if the final product and the prototype reflect a difference, it refers to the low fidelity prototype.

Rapid prototyping history

Which was first rapid prototyping technology to go commercial? The first method for rapid prototyping was introduced in the 1980s; the initial method was intended to create prototypes and model parts. The popularity of rapid prototyping became common during 1987 with the advent of stereolithography technology.

Stereolithography technology refers to a process that leads to the solidification of liquid polymers sensitive to ultraviolet light with laser technology.
Over the years, rapid prototyping measures developed significantly and different advanced technologies were used for them. Some of the most common and popular types of rapid prototyping were fused deposition modeling, object fabrication, and selective laser sintering.

Stratasys was the first to revolutionize the rapid prototyping industry by implementing 3D Techniques in FDM technology in April 1992. Objet launched the first 3D system for rapid prototyping in April 2000. The project was called Polyjet Technology .

Various innovations and enhancements have been introduced in the rapid prototyping industry to boost mass production capabilities and increase production speed.

Why is rapid prototyping used?

The world is moving at a fast pace and therefore technologies are also developing. At times like these, it becomes extremely crucial to take steps that can help your business grow. Market competition is increasing.

Therefore, companies must seek new and innovative measures to present and promote their products. In fact, rapid prototyping can be one of the best technologies to promote the popularity of products in the market.

Over the years, rapid prototyping measures developed significantly and different advanced technologies were used for them. Some of the most common and popular types of rapid prototyping were fused deposition modeling, object fabrication, and selective laser sintering.

Stratasys was the first to revolutionize the rapid prototyping industry by implementing 3D Techniques in FDM technology in April 1992. Objet launched the first 3D system for rapid prototyping in April 2000. The project was called Polyjet Technology .

Various innovations and enhancements have been introduced in the rapid prototyping industry to boost mass production capabilities and increase production speed.



Developers have the flexibility to test their function, structure, mobility, and manufacturability. This also helps save a lot of money than restarting the product after a defect has been found in the final product.

A viable prototype is extremely beneficial and financially useful for brands. This helps to maintain a proper balance between functionality and aesthetics. Compared to the development of the final model, a prototype is very beneficial.

How does rapid prototyping work?

Rapid prototyping follows additive manufacturing technology. The process follows the initial steps of creating a virtual model of the final product before launching it on the market. CAD software has a critical role to play in the development of prototype models.

Rapid prototyping follows standard data processing and can produce many 3D models in a short time. However, the number of models produced will depend significantly on the number and size of the models that will be produced using a specific type of machine.
Rapid prototyping additive layer manufacturing technology is created using different technologies such as molding, casting, high speed machining, and extrusion.

In the case of additive manufacturing, the different processes play a fundamental role in the construction of the prototypes. These two processes are:

  • Subtractive – turning, milling, and grinding play an important role in creating a particular shape.
  • Compressive: semi-solid and liquid material is further modified using different processes such as compression sintering, molding and casting.
    What are the different types of rapid prototyping?
    The development of rapid prototyping has only helped facilitate the technology. This also caters for different needs. Some of the more common types of rapid prototypes include the following.

1.Rapid 3D printing prototypes

3D printing is one of the most common and well-known forms of prototyping. The main features of the final model are assembled using additive layer technology or 3D printing. This shape is a faster way to achieve the desired results for how the final product would look.

3D printing service is often used for model making in the fields of rapid prototyping , mold making and industrial design, and then gradually used in direct manufacturing of some products.
3D printing technology is used in rapid prototyping design services, jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, firearms and other applications. fields.

2.Rapid sheet metal prototypes

Rapid Sheet Metal Prototyping is a fast and cost-effective solution to accessing all your important documents. Follow complete procedures like bending, cutting a standard gauge, and bending. This helps create durable end-use metal parts.

Rapid sheet metal prototyping is used for different industries such as energy, robotics, medical devices, automotive, and aerospace. The sheet metal used for rapid prototyping is 0.006 inches to 0.25 inches thick.

3.Rapid CNC prototyping

Rapid Prototyping CNC provides the benefit of using computerized equipment for better designed models and quick turnaround of prototypes. This plays an important role in creating high-quality end-use materials.

Compared to other prototyping processes, rapid CNC prototyping is fast and can play an important role in designing even the most complex elements in the simplest way.

Rapid CNC prototyping can use different procedures, such as plastic injection molding and die casting, to create the actual item. In many cases, it will pave the way for creating rigid metals in a standard shape.

Additionally, models developed by rapid CNC prototyping are easy to alter or modify. This procedure works with different materials, providing extensive long-term benefits.

4.Rapid injection molding prototyping

With the help of rapid injection molding, injection molded parts are prototypes. The thermoplastic resin allows the creation of these modeled pieces in 2-5 weeks.

One of the most important benefits of rapid injection molding prototyping is the creation of prototype models using different materials and colors. This also plays an important role in maintaining flexibility through the molds.

CNC machines often aid in the creation of rapid injection molding prototyping . The process also follows a bridge to production method that can allow for the creation of thousands of parts.

5.Rapid casting of prototypes under vacuum

Rapid vacuum casting of prototypes has become extremely efficient and ensures faster development of prototype models. This is a flexible method that can help you create high-quality models.

Helps to mold resins and silicone models. It will be available in different patterns and will help eliminate any potential bubbles. Rapid vacuum prototyping can play an essential role in maintaining material quality while ensuring faster build-up and versatility in prototyping.

Rapid prototyping process

What is a rapid manufacturing process? There are different types of rapid prototyping processes, each with its own advantages.


Stereolithography is also known as vat photopolymerization and is instead a quick method of creating commercial 3D prints. The photosensitive liquid is used in the procedure, which is finally solidified layer by layer under computer controlled ultraviolet light.

2.Material injection

Material injection is also known as fused deposition modeling and is one of the most economical procedures commonly used for non-industrial 3D printers.

In this technique, the thermoplastic filament is attached to the cylinder of the printing nozzle before the final product is placed layer by layer according to the actual design. Initial results are weak, but the process is only getting better. This procedure is the most beneficial for product development, as it is cheap and fast.

3.Selective laser sintering

Selective laser sintering is one such procedure used for prototyping plastic and metal. This process uses an energy base to create the prototype. Lasers are used to heat the material. The final prototype may not be as strong as the stereolithography prototype.

However, the final prototype needs a proper finish along with a secondary touch.

4.Selective laser fusion

The selective laser fusion procedure is also known as powder bed fusion, which helps create durable and complex parts. Selective laser fusion is often used in different industries, such as defense, automotive, aerospace, and medical.

In this procedure, fine metal powder is applied in layers to create the prototype. Manufacturers can use a high-powered electron or laser beam. The most common SLM materials beneficial for rapid prototyping are stainless steel, cobalt chrome alloys, aluminum, and titanium.

5.Manufacture of rolled objects

Laminate object manufacturing or LOM is also known as foil lamination. Although LOM is not as effective as SLM or SLS, there is no extensive requirement for controlled conditions.

In the LOM process, the thin laminates used are manufactured uniformly. Thin laminates are cut using lasers to create a CAD pattern design. Each layer is bonded one on top of the other to ensure a precise design.

6.Digital light processing

Digital light processing is also known as DLP and has functionalities similar to SLA. This procedure uses resin polymerization. Although similar to SLA, it is relatively cheap and fast. Therefore, DLP plays an important role in the construction of post-construction curing and support structures.

7.Continuous production of liquid interface

The alternative version of DLP is known as CLIP or Continuous Liquid Interface Production. In this process, the part is extracted directly without using the layers.

When the particular part is taken out of the tub, it helps create a light barrier that further leads to alteration in configuration, thus allowing the creation of a custom cross-sectional design on the particular prototype material.

8.Binder jet

This is one of the rarely used prototyping measures because the results are not as robust as SLS. In the binder injection process, multiple parts can be printed at the same time. The binder jet also follows the powder bed process, adhering micro-fine nozzle droplets to create a strong bond between the particle layers.

Each layer is compacted with a roller before applying another layer of powder. Once a particular coat is completed, another is applied over it. When the whole process is finished, the binding agent burns off and the powder melts into a coherent part.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is a newer introduction to the industry. Although it has been there since the 1980s, recent technological changes have played an important role in driving the impact. Therefore, the process has its advantages and disadvantages.

1. What are the advantages of rapid prototyping?

Over the years, several companies have chosen to use rapid prototyping, taking into account the benefits it offers. Rapid prototyping is beneficial to engineers, design and development teams. Some of the common benefits of rapid prototyping include

It helps them to analyze concepts easily. Furthermore, efficiency plays an important role in saving time and costs. The team has the flexibility to visualize what the product would look like. As a result, everyone can understand what the properties and designs of the product will be.

Designers and engineers can constantly offer designs and make changes if necessary in the evaluation and testing procedure. This paves the way for better development of the final product.

Engineers, manufacturers, and development teams will better collaborate to create a useful concept. Two-dimensional images may not provide an accurate representation of the product. With rapid prototyping, team members can effectively communicate about the product and put them into action.

Rapid prototyping incorporates the concept of thoroughly testing and refining qualities. This helps to understand the design flaw and eventually overcome it. If you can minimize design flaws in the initial stages without developing the actual project, you will save money for the development itself.

In rapid prototyping, you don’t need many tools, so they can play an important role in saving time and money. The same equipment can be used to prototype different materials with different properties. As a result, it would help keep expenses to a minimum.

2. What are the downsides to rapid prototyping?

While rapid prototyping is exceptionally crucial for designers, there are certain limitations to its use. If you are using this concept to design your final product, there are many things you will need to consider.

Therefore, some of the common disadvantages of rapid prototyping include the following.

  • Lacks precision
  • Initially, the cost can be high
  • Many rapid prototyping methods are not economically efficient but expensive.
  • Strength and surface finish of final products will vary from actual.
  • It has a limited materialistic scope.
  • Some of the most important characteristics of materials will often have to be overlooked. This is mainly because many of these features cannot be prototyped.
  • It could create a gap or misunderstanding between the user’s goals. While customers will consider the prototype to be the final product, it may not be the same.

Rapid prototyping materials

What are the materials used in rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping materials are developed to fit the specifications of the final product. ABS, acrylic, polyphenylsulfone, polycarbonate, and nylon are among the few commonly used rapid prototyping materials.

Different materials play a key role in determining their impact. Each material provides a different level of durability and strength. Here are the rapid prototyping materials

1.Metal prototypes

Rapid prototyping and fabrication can be done using various materials. Metal tapid prototyping includes techniques such as CNC machining, casting, or sheet metal forming.

Rapid prototyping products can take months to build in detail. Metal prototyping services are the most viable, among others, in terms of strength and durability.

Metal prototyping requires the prototyping of metal using different metal fabrication techniques such as casting, sheet metal forming, and CNC machining. Engineering equipment can use different metals, such as aluminum and steel. These are mainly used to suit functional purposes and aesthetic requirements of customers.
Rapid metal prototyping is suitable for functional prototypes, hybrid prototypes, and pre-production prototypes. Metal is often the best material of all and has most of the characteristics needed for rapid part prototyping.

Rapid metal prototyping is also perfect for some specific results, such as conductive and ductile purposes. Molds are often created using metal prototypes rather than using other cheap materials like plastic.

2.Plastic prototypes

Rapid Plastic Prototyping is manufactured from polystyrene, ABS, or rigid polyurethane foam. An alternative method of rapid plastic prototyping is to pour a liquid thermosetting resin into a mold, where it is then hardened to form a final prototype.

Plastic prototypes are designed using stereolithography (SLA), where a 3D part of a liquid photopolymer vat is punched out using a CNC-directed UV laser.

Rapid plastic prototyping is one of the slowest to perform due to the involvement of injection molding. This is a unique procedure, but it can help effectively with the creation of a large number of plastic prototypes. Helps create deep features, square holes, and hinges, which is only possible with plastic prototyping.

Many printing methods use an extrusion phenomenon to deposit plastic material in layers until the finished prototype is created. Plastic prototyping services include injection molding, vacuum casting and SLS plastic prototyping.

The most suitable service for rapid plastic prototyping is CNC machining and fabrication. These processes are fast, offer a more comprehensive surface finish selection, and produce larger prototypes.

3.Rapid powder prototyping

The design and development of powdered materials by screen printing will also be carried out. Compact powder in thin layers of fine powder is used in powder-based rapid prototyping techniques. An entity is formed by the stacking of these layers of local material. 3D powder printing applications are SLS, 3dp, etc.

In rapid powder prototyping, powder compaction is used to create different layers of fine powder. The thin layers are joined closer together and joined locally to create an object. However, this method is used only to create the same prototypes with similar or specific characteristic
Powdered prototyping material properties include size, particle fusibility, thermal and optical characteristics (which are bottlenecks in achieving required mechanical results), feature resolution, surface quality and the precision of the final product.

4.Solid-based rapid prototyping

Solid-based simple synthesis technologies are designed to suit all types of solid-forming materials. Wires, laminates, rolls or granules can also be used as solid base prototypes. Two main concepts apply to strong and fast prototyping systems: first, cut and paste, second, the process of fusion and solidification.

Both of the above processes are different from each other. In some cases, laser techniques are used in the prototype manufacturing process. 3D printing and prototyping is done after using all the solid-state material. FDM and ABS are some solid-based rapid prototyping services.
Helps to prototype all shapes within the solid state. In addition, it can help to create the prototype in any of its forms, such as laminate, granules, rolls and even wire. Solid-based rapid prototyping generally follows two different principles, such as the join method or the merge method. Both processes are different from each other, but they are manufactured with laser technology.

Rapid prototyping cost

One of the most common questions people ask is what is the cost of rapid prototyping. The cost of rapid prototyping generally varies depending on the size of the mold, the number of units produced, the procedure, the material, and the desired end result.

Costing is divided into three main categories:

  • Rapid prototype test
  • Rapid prototype design
  • Rapid prototyping

How much does rapid prototyping cost?

The question is quite difficult to answer without a specific drawing. Machining method, material, quantity, surface finish, and cost of labor are factors that bear the final cost.
3D printing is ideal for producing a simple prototype, which costs less than most processes. However, there are a few other methods that can be used quickly and profitably. An approximate distribution is mentioned below:

  •  Manufacturing in 3D or SLA for the first component can cost approximately $ 10.
  • Rapid CNC design prices for initial training start at $ 80.
  • For a silicone mold and only 1 or 2 bits, vacuum casting will cost around $ 150.

The price deviates from the number of prototype units. Large production will reduce the cost of your prototype.

Rapid prototyping in China would cost less than charges in the US and Europe. According to experts, you can save around 30% of the manufacturing cost if you choose fast and cheap prototypes in China.

Therefore, many companies prefer to choose rapid prototyping services in China over others due to the benefits it has to offer.

You need to first analyze what kind of rapid prototypes you want, and then consult the experts about the price.

Rapid prototyping applications

What are the applications of rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping technologies can essentially be tailored to different materials and requirements. This is hailed as one of the most versatile techniques that can be used for different benefits. Some of the more common applications for rapid prototyping include the following.

Product designers always consider it a fast and efficient process. With the help of conceptual models, designers can easily explain their ideas to clients and achieve them using the ideas. But when designers have a physical model, they will explain to stakeholders precisely the benefit of using it and how it can be implemented in daily life.

Designers primarily use rapid prototyping to create representative prototype parts. This plays an important role in visualization creation and helps with the development procedure before developing the final product.
Initially, rapid prototyping was used to create small-scale models, especially for the automotive industry. But today, this procedure is also being used for other industries, such as medical and aerospace.

Quick tooling is also one of the most important uses for rapid prototyping.

Rapid prototyping mainly includes industrial and medicinal use. Rapid prototyping options are available according to consumer and related market needs.

Industrial prototypes include parts and scale modeling, molds for bulk production, tooling, lightweight components, etc. Wall panels (FDM), air duct (SLS), and structural metal components are some examples of parts that can be made with rapid prototyping and production (DMLS, EBM, DED). Many other technologies are also required to meet the requirements of the final product.

The growth of the healthcare sector is driven by the creation of medical prototypes. Radiation diagnostics, including magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography, are largely based on rapid prototypes and their application. 3D printing is used to make medical instruments; for example, test kits are manufactured in bulk using rapid prototyping technologies.
One of the most common mistakes people tend to make is confusing rapid prototyping to be the same as 3D printing. 3D printing is part of additive manufacturing technology. But rapid prototyping is one of the uses of additive manufacturing technology.

Rapid prototyping is used primarily at the industrial level, while 3D printing is primarily used at the consumer level. 3D printing is a complex procedure that requires milling and turning to add layers and create a model.

However, in rapid prototyping, the process involves developing small-scale parts or a final product model with computer-aided design software.

3D printing is the manufacturing process, while prototyping represents the final product. Therefore, a combination of 3D printing techniques will further help create rapid prototyping technology. Therefore, 3D printing prototypes are quite different from general ones.

What you learned

The rapid prototyping industry has developed gradually in recent years. Massive changes in technology have also helped bridge the communication gap between designers and users. It is advisable to choose the best rapid prototyping companies to get wide benefits.

The evolution from the 1980s to the present is quite evident from the amount of techniques and materials involved to create it. If you start your rapid prototyping business, you will need to determine what the future will look like. However, for now, it has undoubtedly facilitated the way companies work.


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