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Rapid Prototyping Techniques Bring Your Product to Life

Imagine you have the purest of visions laid out before your eyes. Your CAD software indicates that all of the measurements and specifications that you have painstakingly calculated are 100% firm. This means that your product is ready for prototyping so that it can be proven for large-scale production. Getting a prototype generated quickly is always ideal, making rapid prototyping the best choice for taking your project to the next level.

Determining which of the primary rapid prototyping techniques is the best fit for bringing your design concepts to life involves more than picking the methodology. There are a few sub-elements involved in rapid prototyping that will help give your project’s concept an added boost in proving out designs. Familiarizing yourself with these prototyping features will give you stronger and better-looking examples that can be presentable to almost any audience.

Additive Prototyping is the Quicker, Less Expensive Option, But…

When you need to create small batches of prototypes in a very short time frame, additive prototyping options need to be your first consideration. Additive prototyping techniques add natural time and cost savings into R&D processes, as designs can be quickly sent to machines and processed without the need for painstaking configurations or setup tasks. This drastically reduces the effort required to make small batches of parts.

Prototype creation using additive techniques are primarily completed on 3D printers. This makes the generation of parts faster, highly accurate, and gives you an easy way to create parts with complex, intricate contours. This includes parts that are partially hollowed, or those needed to fit integrated assemblies. And perhaps the most attractive feature of additive prototyping is that you get the ability to manufacture your prototype using the same material as planned for the final product.

Additive prototyping does come with its specific drawbacks. Some product designs may not scale well for additive prototyping. And while costs are initially minimized, they can quickly spiral out of control when certain complexities or materials are used. For example, if you need to create a highly refined surface, it will add both cost and time to your prototype development. Also, created parts without any hollowing could add cost in terms of materials and time.

Casting Prototyping Techniques Are Best Suited For Large Volumes

Using the casting technique for your rapid prototypes is a great match for when you need to create a mass amount of prototypes and fast. Good quality can be achieved, but this will only be as good as the molds you create and use in the prototyping process. An acceptable degree of complexity can be achieved, and as long as you have the patience to craft, validate, and manufacture your molds, this can be a solid prototyping technique for your applications.

Using casting of course introduces some rapid prototyping limitations. You need to create your mold, which adds both time and cost while introducing the risk of an improperly formed mold setting your project back. This itself limits you to low-fidelity prototypes, which means that you will not get a result that is close to what you have in mind for the final product. The cost and effort of creating molds yourself limit your large-scale batches to recoup R&D costs.

Image of a 3D printer next to a CAD design on an LCD monitorAchieve a Head-Turning Prototype Using Subtraction Techniques

If you are looking to create a rapid prototype that looks like a highly finished and precise product, then using subtraction prototyping techniques will be for you. Precision is the calling card of this prototyping technique and has better range tolerances than even 3D printers can currently offer. You can design a perfected surface finish with this technique, making your prototypes look more polished and ready to run in production in an instant.

There are some drawbacks if the use of subtraction techniques when bringing to light the details of your design. This is an expansive and time-consuming process which, like casting, makes it ill-suited for small batches. The creation of complex parts using subtraction techniques are complicated and will add more cost and time to your project. This is a set of techniques that is best used in conjunction with another rapid prototyping technique to demonstrate the full look and abilities of the final product.

Design Complexity and Material Types Are Key Rapid Prototyping Considerations

Gaining an understanding of some of the most common rapid prototyping techniques is important to your prototyping successes. There are however a couple of additional prototyping nuances that will help you in building a fruitful prototyping strategy to serve you in your projects. These revolve around determining the types of materials to be used, as well as examining the design complexities of your typical design project.

Each scenario you are placed in will build its case for its best prototyping technique. The materials you use will largely be defined by cost, final appearance, and product usability. Prototyping materials will also be directly dependent on the complexity of the design you are attempting to bring to life. By carefully crafting your project designs to keep these finer points in mind, you will reduce the risk of having to change your prototyping process mid-stream, as well as limiting the associated costs and time drains.

Need Additional Guidance on Rapid Prototyping Techniques?

As cutting-edge rapid prototyping techniques continue to evolve, so must your knowledge around how these work for your projects. Learning the ups and downs of the three most common rapid prototyping techniques will help you to design a prototyping playbook that will leave most project questions answered. But what about the rest of your questions?

Answering the rest of your questions is what the experienced engineers at Pacific Research Laboratories are waiting to help you with. Our team of experts is well-versed in all areas of rapid prototyping design and development techniques, and we will work with you to bring your product ideas to life. To learn more about our services, please visit our contact page or call  (206) 408-7603.