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Types of Rapid Prototyping Technologies Manufacturers Rely On
by Nice Rapid | Feb 25,2021 | Rapid Prototyping

Innovations have brought about many changes in the manufacturing industry. One of them is the ability to create prototypes with faster and cheaper methods. This is called rapid prototyping, and the process involves creating a three-dimensional model of the design to test its form and function.

Computer-aided technology helps build the part, usually through an additive manufacturing method popularly known as 3D printing. It is an additive process because the material is layered one on top of the other until it builds a 3D object.

There are two types of prototypes. High-fidelity prototype where the design is very similar to the end product and low fidelity type where the distinction between the final product and the prototype is visible.

Different Types of Rapid Prototyping Techniques

There are plenty of manufacturing techniques used in rapid prototyping. But the most accessible among them is additive manufacturing. However, manufacturers can also use casting, extruding, molding, and high-speed machining for their prototypes.

1. SLA or Stereolithography

It is a commonly used additive manufacturing process because it is fast and affordable. SLA is the precursor of 3D printing, and it works by using photosensitive liquid. When exposed to the computer-controlled UV light, the liquid will turn into a layered solid form.

2. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Another type of additive technology used in prototyping plastic and metal is SLS. This technology uses a high-power laser to heat and sinter the material in powder form. SLS requires minimal time and labor. It is also low cost and offers higher productivity.

3. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

Another fast, affordable, and convenient process is FDM. It is an ideal rapid prototyping process for product developers because it uses non-industrial 3D printers. The part is created from the bottom up with a printing nozzle loaded with a thermoplastic filament.

4. Selective Laser Melting (SLM) or Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)

What makes this process different from other rapid prototyping methods is it produces high-strength and multifaceted parts at an affordable cost. SLM is used in manufacturing parts for the medical, defense, aerospace, and automotive industries.

PBF on the other hand uses a powerful laser to melt the layers and fuse the powder material in creating the part or prototype. The powder base material can be aluminum, copper, titanium, stainless steel, or cobalt chrome alloys.

5. Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

This process is also low-cost but not as complicated as SLS or SLM. The process works by lumping together previously cut plastic, ceramic, or metal material with glue on top of the other until the component is completed. One of its drawbacks, though, is that the process is labor-intensive and time-consuming.

6. Digital Light Process

The process has similarities with the SLA technique on using a light source to harden the resin. The difference in this process is that the UV light comes from a projector instead of laser beams. DLP is also faster and cheaper to use than SLA.

7. Binder Jetting

The last rapid prototyping technique on the list is binder jetting. It is unique because it can manufacture one or more parts at the same time. The process uses a nozzle to spray binding agents in the liquid into powder particles to create layers piece by piece. The part needs finishing in an oven to sear off the binding agents.

Conclusion

There you have it, the several types of rapid prototyping techniques to choose from. These processes are used by engineers, product designers, and product developers to create prototypes. The prototypes are beneficial to them because it helps in designing, visualization and functional tests before the final production.

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