Rapid prototyping is now becoming the standard for manufacturing businesses. It promotes faster production time while reducing operating costs.
Rapid prototyping services are relatively new, but they are improving the manufacturing industry by:
- Fostering fast product development
- Supporting lean manufacturing
- Increasing flexibility of product creation
Rapid prototyping enhances technological advancements in the manufacturing industry to ensure high product customizations to increase overall profits while increasing customer satisfaction.
What is rapid prototyping?
Rapid prototyping is a batch of techniques used to quickly build a model, a physical part of a building using a 3D computer-aided design (CAD). The building model is part is achieved through 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing. 3D printing involves adding layer-upon-layer of materials to achieve a 3D object which is called a prototype.
Other technologies used in rapid prototyping include:
- High-speed machining
Prototypes are described as either high-fidelity or low-fidelity prototypes. A high-fidelity prototype is a design that fits the end product idea, while a low-fidelity prototype is when the end-product does not match the initial idea.
Different types of rapid prototyping?
Here are the different types of prototyping
1. Vat photopolymerization or Stereolithography (SLA)
SLA is an additive manufacturing process that is affordable and fast. It was the first type of 3D printing ever to work.
SLA uses a tank of photosensitive liquid that turns into a solid when in contact with computer-controlled UV light. Once the SLA parts have solidified, they cannot turn back to liquid; the process is irreversible.
2. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
SLS is also an additive manufacturing technology best suited for plastic and metal prototyping. SLS uses a high-power laser to heat and sinter layers of powder to create a prototype.
It is important to note that SLS products are much weaker than SLA prototypes. However, SLS is much cheaper and requires less time and labor while offering high productivity.
SLS parts are rough and require more refining after obtaining the final part.
3. Material Jetting or Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)
Material jetting is also an additive manufacturing process that is fast, affordable, easy to use, and cheap. FDM is best used for product development.
FDM creates prototypes using thermoplastic filaments melted inside a printing nozzle barrel. The printer works by moving the nozzle back and forth. By using a computer deposition program, the plastic is layered to form the prototype.
4. Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) or Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
SLM is the most commonly used type of additive manufacturing. This method is popular in aerospace, automotive, defense, and medical companies. It is the most preferred method because it is less expensive and it makes high-quality parts.
The method uses a high-power or electron beam to melt the binder layered with the powder to create a production part or prototype.
PBF uses powered based materials such as:
- Titanium, cobalt chrome alloys
- Stainless steel
5. Sheet Lamination or Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
Sheet lamination is not as complex when compared to SLS and SLM. This process does not need you to be in a specially controlled environment to achieve your desired results.
Sheet Lamination works by putting together layer-by-layer metal, plastic, and ceramics cuts using laser beams to create the desired CAD design. Each layer is bonded with glue till the whole component is finished. However, this method is labor-intensive and takes a lot of time.
6. Digital Light Processing (DLP)
DLP is almost the same as the SLA method. DLP used polymerization of resins that are solidified using a beam of light.
The light source in DLP comes from a projector, while the light source in SLA comes from laser beams. DLP is cheaper and quicker than SLP, but it needs more infrastructure in terms of post-build curing.
7. Binder Jetting
Binder jetting is also an additive manufacturing process that allows more than one part to be printed simultaneously. Parts created in this process are not as strong as this of the SLS process.
Binder Jetting works by spraying liquid binding agents using nozzles to join powder particles, creating a one-piece layer.
The powder is added layer by layer, compacted and spread using a roller, and then added to the binder. This method created parts using a binder and powder. After the binding is over, the prototype or part is cured in an oven, melt the binding agent, which binds with the powder to form the finished product.
What are the advantages of rapid prototyping?
- Share concepts easily
Models achieved from rapid prototyping help designers to share their ideas easily with their clients, colleagues, and collaborators. Rapid prototyping enables designers to get the appropriate feedback from users and helps them understand the user’s needs. It is easier to improve and refine a design.
- It’s easier to make design changes
Designing is a repetitive process that requires multiple changes with many rounds of testing, evaluation, and refinement before you achieve the final products. Rapid prototyping services offer the required flexibility to help create prototypes much faster than ever before.
- Rapid prototyping helps save on time and cost
Additive manufacturing ensures that there is no need for expensive tooling and setup. The same 3D printers are used to produce different prototypes with different geometrics.
In case you don’t have an in-house rapid prototyping unit, you can outsource your services to an exquisite rapid prototyping company such as WayKen.
- It minimizes design flaws and errors
Using 3D printing, designers ensure that they fix all the flaws early on during product development. Rapid prototype development ensures companies avoid expensive tool and design changes along the way.
Rapid prototyping examples help designers test prototypes that perform and look like the final product, reducing the risk of usage and manufacturing issues before the company moves to production.
- It Eases the Process of Idea Exploration
Rapid prototyping reduces the risk of idea exploration because designers can bring their idea to life in no time. Prototyping makes it easier to understand and refine a design.
What are some of the industrial applications of rapid prototyping?
Some of the areas where the rapid prototyping process is applied include:
- Making of drones
Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed a rapid prototyping machine that creates a drone that flies out of the machines.
This is a great tech advancement in drone manufacturing since it will take less time and funds to manufacture drones.
- Developing aerospace and defense equipment
Rapid prototyping services are quite popular in the aerospace and defense industry. These services are required when testing out prototypes before they are approved to be manufactured.
Rapid prototyping is great in testing design that would have been too costly to test using the traditional methods.
- Designing medicine devices
Rapid prototyping companies in the medical industry, such as WayKen, have refined their processes by offering a fast turnaround time in producing medical devices such as scalpels, retractors, medical diagnostic, and display devices, among other devices.
With 3D printing, doctors can see medical equipment prototypes and test them to provide the best treatment for their patients.
- Used in making automotive parts
Rapid prototyping has been a key part of the manufacturing of automotive parts. Additive manufacturing has the production of automotive parts with integrated functionality without tooling. This has led to a great reduction in the development and production cost.
What are some new frontiers with rapid prototyping?
1. Rapid prototyping with artificial intelligence (AI)
AI is slowly becoming an integral part of rapid prototype development. Making data-oriented decisions and seamless testing is among the essential features for exceptional product prototyping.
2. Autonomous driving development with rapid prototyping
Because of increased interest in autonomous driving, there is a demand for new control platforms and sensor technologies to increase the pace and reduce the cost of product development. Companies are now using rapid prototyping to develop the testing and development framework required.
3. In creating physical 3D maps
Rapid prototyping is now being used to create 3D scale objects of a city model, landscape with relied and a continuous surface that have been interpolated from statistical data. There have been examples of 3D models made that have been used to show the capability of this technology.
New website-based service enables 3D models covered by satellite imagery, user-supplied GPS tracks, and topographic maps.
Rapid prototyping is fast changing the manufacturing industry. New technological advancements are coming up every day to improve customer satisfaction, drive efficiency, and reduce production costs.