Rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping
A rapid prototyping machine using selective laser sintering.

Rapid prototyping is the automatic construction of physical objects using additive manufacturing technology. The first techniques for rapid prototyping became available in the late 1980s and were used to produce models and prototype parts. Today, they are used for a much wider range of applications and are even used to manufacture production-quality parts in relatively small numbers. Some sculptors use the technology to produce exhibitions.



Rapid prototyping slicing.jpg

The use of additive manufacturing for rapid prototyping takes virtual designs from computer aided design (CAD) or animation modeling software, transforms them into thin, virtual, horizontal cross-sections and then creates successive layers until the model is complete. It is a WYSIWYG process where the virtual model and the physical model are almost identical.

With additive manufacturing, the machine reads in data from a CAD drawing and lays down successive layers of liquid, powder, or sheet material, and in this way builds up the model from a series of cross sections. These layers, which correspond to the virtual cross section from the CAD model, are joined together or fused automatically to create the final shape. The primary advantage to additive fabrication is its ability to create almost any shape or geometric feature.

The standard data interface between CAD software and the machines is the STL file format. An STL file approximates the shape of a part or assembly using triangular facets. Smaller facets produce a higher quality surface.

The word "rapid" is relative: construction of a model with contemporary methods can take from several hours to several days, depending on the method used and the size and complexity of the model. Additive systems for rapid prototyping can typically produce models in a few hours, although it can vary widely depending on the type of machine being used and the size and number of models being produced simultaneously.

Some solid freeform fabrication techniques use two materials in the course of constructing parts. The first material is the part material and the second is the support material (to support overhanging features during construction). The support material is later removed by heat or dissolved away with a solvent or water.

Traditional injection molding can be less expensive for manufacturing polymer products in high quantities, but additive fabrication can be faster and less expensive when producing relatively small quantities of parts. 3D printers give designers and concept development teams the ability to produce parts and concept models using a desktop size printer.

Rapid prototyping is now entering the field of rapid manufacturing and it is believed by many experts that this is a "next level" technology.[1]


Rapid prototyping worldwide[2]
The Audi RSQ was made by Audi with rapid prototyping industrial KUKA robots
Industrial KUKA robot for wood processing and rapid ptototyping

A large number of competing technologies are available in the marketplace. As all are additive technologies, their main differences are found in the way layers are built to create parts. Some are melting or softening material to produce the layers (SLS, FDM) where others are laying liquid materials thermosets that are cured with different technologies. In the case of lamination systems, thin layers are cut to shape and joined together.

As of 2005, conventional rapid prototype machines cost around £25,000.[3]

Prototyping technologies Base materials
Selective laser sintering (SLS) Thermoplastics, metals powders
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) Almost any alloy metal
Fused deposition modeling (FDM) Thermoplastics, eutectic metals
Stereolithography (SLA) photopolymer
Laminated object manufacturing (LOM) Paper
Electron beam melting (EBM) Titanium alloys
3D printing (3DP) Various materials

Classification of rapid prototyping:

  1. Based on material addition
    1. liquid
      1. solidification of liquid
        1. point by point
        2. layer by layer
        3. holographic surface
      2. solidification of electroset liquid
      3. solidification of molten material
        1. point by point
        2. layer by layer
    2. Discrete
      1. joining of powder particles by laser
      2. bonding of powder particles by binders
    3. solid
      1. joining of sheets by adhesive
      2. joining of sheets by light; uv light or laser
  2. Material reduction

Concept modelers(desktop manufacturing):

Following are few commercially available concept modelers:

  1. 3D systems Inc Thermojet printer(multi-jet printing)
  2. Sanders model maker 2
  3. Z corporation Z402
  4. Stratasys genisys x5
  5. JP system 5
  6. Object quadra system

See also



  1. ^ Wohlers Report 2009, State of the Industry Annual Worldwide Progress Report on Additive Manufacturing, Wohlers Associates, 2009, http://www.wohlersassociates.com/, ISBN 0-9754429-5-3
  2. ^ D. T. Pham, S. S. Dimov, Rapid manufacturing, Springer-Verlag, 2001, ISBN 1-85233-360-X, page 6
  3. ^ http://www.bath.ac.uk/pr/releases/replicating-machines.htm


  • Wright, Paul K. (2001). 21st Century manufacturing. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • rapid prototyping — process of quickly developing experimental models, process of rapidly creating prototypes …   English contemporary dictionary

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  • RAPID — [lat.], reißend, schnell. Steht auch für ein Herstellungsverfahren, mithilfe dessen Prototypen schneller und kostengünstiger hergestellt werden können Schnelle Produktentwicklung, Rapid Manufacturing, Rapid Prototyping einen österreichischen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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