With the advent of new technologies such as 3D Printing, the Prototyping and Development process of all companies has been revolutionized: this is how Rapid Prototyping was born.
The need to shorten the development phase of a product to anticipate the release of production on the market has pushed companies towards additive manufacturing that allowed them to have functional prototypes in a very short time: today, with current technologies, it is an average of 3- 7 days.
This guide contains everything you need to know about Rapid Prototyping: technologies used, advantages and disadvantages, production times and costs.
What does prototyping mean?
Prototyping is a design phase in which a model is created to allow the designer to evaluate his idea from a conceptual but also functional and technical point of view.
The prototype is the first example of an object on which to carry out tests and modifications before proceeding to mass production.
What is Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid prototyping refers to a series of industrial technologies that aim to create a prototype starting from a digital 3D model (CAD file).
It replaces the handcrafted production of the prototype, once entrusted to modeling with traditional techniques.
Usually, Rapid Prototyping is made by additive technologies: they start from the material in basic form (powder, filament or resin) to obtain complex parts that would be impossible to obtain with traditional techniques by removing from a single block of material.
The key advantage for which rapid prototyping has become a market standard lies in the reduction of the time required for the realization of the prototype: on average, it goes from 60-75 days to 3-7 days for the realization and delivery. This reduction in timing leads to significantly shorter go to market times, drastically reducing lost profits.
What is Rapid Prototyping for?
Rapid prototyping serves to reduce costs and development times for a new product and to test the final result, allowing the designer to quickly intervene with corrections or modifications that will improve the final product. In this way, a new model can be placed on the market more quickly and efficiently.
How is Rapid Prototypin used?
Rapid prototyping is used across all major industrial sectors, from the mechanical to the automotive sector, from the eyewearing to the medical sector.
This process can be inserted in different phases of the production cycle: it can be used in the first design phase, during tests with users, for presentations and trade fairs, during production tests.
What are the Phases of Rapid Prototyping cycle?
- Preparation of the 3D file, usually in STL file starting from a CAD model prepared by the designer or through reverse engineering, that is, creating a model starting from a piece already made, perhaps with the aid of a 3D scanner;
- Management of the 3D model, with the repair of the mesh, orientation of the piece, preparation of the printing plate (nesting) and of the printing layers (slicing);
- Printing of the prototype layer by layer according to the different technology used;
- Post Processing phase, i.e. the finishing of the piece, by removing supports or excess material and improving the surfaces by sandblasting or dyeing to make the final product as similar as possible to the desired one.
What are the advantages of additive manufacturing such as FDM printing and SLA printing?
The main advantage offered by FDM technologies is the wide range of materials with excellent mechanical properties, such as PEEK or carbon-reinforced materials that can replicate similar production materials. The main limits are given by the layers that are very visible and by the non-waterproofing of the parts.
The SLA print, on the other hand, offers very defined parts with a very high aesthetic yield and a smooth and waterproof surface; on the other hand, the resins are not resistant to mechanical stress. Finally, the pieces made with SLA technology require the removal of the supports created for the realization.
What are the advantages of additive manufacturing with MJF printing?
The parts made with Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology have excellent both aesthetic and functional characteristics, guarantee mechanical properties very close to those of the parts made by injection molding and also a homogeneous and pleasant finish; furthermore they do not require supports and are isotropic.
MJF technology replicates countless injection molding materials such as PA12 Glass Filled, PA11, PP or PA12.
What are limits of Rapid Prototyping?
The main limitation of rapid prototyping is given by the costs for productions over 1000 pieces, where traditional techniques are convenient, and by the range of finishes and materials that is not yet very wide.
What are the rules for creating a great prototype?
- Verification of the 3D File: verify that the mesh of the model is closed and made correctly;
- Checking the Thicknesses: check the minimum thicknesses is greater than 1 mm;
- Verification of Tolerances: verify that the tolerances of the material and technology chosen for the production are compatible with the needs of the project;
- Warpage: be careful to avoid flat parts without reinforcements that can deform.
How to reduce the costs of rapid prototyping?
The factors that contribute to the price of rapid prototyping are the volume of material, the machine time and the space occupied in the printing bed.
To reduce these values, the thicknesses can be reduced up to a couple of mm, empty the solid surfaces taking care to leave holes for the support material to escape, reduce the size of the object as much as possible.
We have seen how Rapid Prototyping has represented the greatest innovation of recent years in Research and Development departments: it allows to design, test, analyze and optimize in a rapid continuous cycle, thus reducing go to market times and with more tested and optimized.
The technologies that allowed the birth of the Rapid Prototyping concept are still in development and improve year after year: just think that only in 2015, the revolutionary MJF Press did not exist. For this reason, even large companies, being able to afford printers like the HP MJF 5200, prefer to resort to external services: in this way, they always manage to have the newer technologies or materials that the market has to offer.
If you are interested in Rapid Prototyping or still have questions, feel free to contact us here. If, on the other hand, you want to evaluate a quote for your model, instant, free and without the need to login, you can upload your file here.