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Rapid prototyping is the speedy manufacture of models and prototypes from CAD models of 3D objects, which is done using techniques different from injection.
Traditionally, industrial prototypes were created by injection. For this techniquea mould must be created into which to inject the material in order to produce the prototype. However, creating these moulds is very expensive and requiresa large production run in order to be economical. Additionally, this method of prototyping was financially out of reach for entrepreneurial projects with little start-up funds, took more time, and wasn’t very responsive when making modifications to the model.
3D printing or additive manufacturing enables you create projects that could never have been created using traditional prototyping techniques. The undeniable advantage ofrapid prototyping is the reduction in costs and manufacturing time, as well as the ability to produce more complex parts. In addition, rapid prototyping brings new opportunities by enabling you to create parts without moulds or dies.
To compare 3D printing to injection, you can refer to our eBook: 3D printing vs. Injection.
3D Printing (also known as Additive Manufacturing) is often used in prototyping. This rapid prototyping technique results in a better quality/price ratio and faster production of parts than traditional prototyping techniques.
Stereolithography was one of the first rapid prototyping processes. Then, new technologies and processes was developed. Now, when we talk about 3D rapid prototyping, we refer to different kinds of 3D printing technologies such as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Selective Laser Sintering, Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL), Binder Jetting, Triple Injection (Polyjet), Digital Light Processing (DLP), Electron Beam Melting (EBM).
The 3D model file exported in STL format is cut into thin 2D slices that are added in successive layers to form the final object. This technique was the precursor to 3D printing, but its results are more fragile.
This rapid prototyping technique results in lower quality properties than SLS technology but it is quicker as it can be done in an individual’s home or in a company at an affordable cost. No powder is used in this process, but a plastic filament is heated and melted in the extrusion nozzle. Once deposited onto the tray, the polymer solidifies by cooling down and sticks to the next layer.
This 3D rapid prototyping technique uses powder from the various components like polymers and metals as its source material. This powder is deposited in a thin layer and melted locally by a laser beam to bind the powder and shape a final part. The object is then sintered so that it becomes functional.
This technique uses the layer principle but in a different way. A laser cuts a shape in a sheet of paper like a pattern. Then a new layer of paper is added and cut. The final part can be much greater in size than what can be done using the SLS technique. The final product looks like wood.
The Binder Jetting technique produces 3D printing by projecting a bonding agent onto thin layers of powder, and multicolour 3D prints can be created. No laser is used to bind the material; instead the coloured bonding agent is used to create a tinted layer.
This technique is the most advanced version of Polyjet technology as you can print three different materials in 3D, which allows you to mix multiple colours.
This 3D printing technique uses a projector to solidify the photopolymers. Very similar to SLA, this process differs by using a lamp instead of a UV laser beam. Objects printed with this technology have smoother surfaces, unlike other methods like FDM/FFF. Compared to SLA, DLP is quicker (and less expensive).
This quick printing technique uses an electron beam to melt the metal powder layer by layer. The properties of the material are as good or better than parts made by casting.
3D rapid prototyping enables you to launch small series of projects. Hopblast‘s success story is a perfect example.
It also enables you to work on a product as many times as necessary without increasing costs. It is widely used in the automobile, aeronautics and construction industries.
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