Rapid prototyping services have changed the manufacturing landscape since its introduction in the late 1980’s. Initially, the reason why it was developed is to support product development by creating a physical model that can validate the design faster at a lower cost. With the physical model, design engineers can make changes at the early process development, thereby eliminating expensive errors in the end.
The Growth of Rapid Prototyping Services
Because of its growing importance in the industry, rapid prototyping services has also grown. There term rapid prototyping can also denote solid freeform fabrication or SFF and layered manufacturing or LM which represents the layer-by-layer production of three-dimensional prototypes. The rapid prototyping process includes using data that is processed into a 3D model. All these processes are created using computer-aided design and 3D scanning, which are necessary for printing of 3D objects.
With this advancement in technology, rapid prototyping has found its way in the manufacturing of many custom-made parts, prototypes included and small parts in a series.
Rapid Prototyping over Other Processes
Since additive manufacturing, which belongs to rapid prototyping is more flexible compared to the conventional processes like molding or casting, it has now many applications in various industries. It is also considered more economically favorable when the production of mold and the tools used in formative manufacturing are higher than rapid prototyping.
Compared to subtractive manufacturing like CNC machining, it is more beneficial because it has fewer waste materials and the process involved in rapid prototyping also allows inclusion more complex undercuts and internals substructures.
Applications of Rapid Prototyping
With the introduction of stereo lithography in the market, there have been many new technologies developed for layered manufacturing, and their applications have widened significantly. Nowadays, rapid prototyping services are no longer confined in concept and visual modeling; they are also used in manufacturing molds and tools for rapid tooling applications.
Rapid prototyping is now also used in the production of functional modeling and the production of end-use parts for rapid manufacturing.
It is also now widely used for direct fabrication of products directly for consumer users. The medical and dental field is benefiting from rapid prototyping services for its clinical applications. One example is the production of fitting implants, which are made using the patient’s individual data. In producing earpieces and in prosthetic dentistry, rapid prototyping is also the correct manufacturing process to use. Other applications are in the fields that have commercial relevance like in architecture, in urban development and in jewelry making.
Of all its applications, perhaps the most valuable are the medical and dental applications of rapid prototyping services, especially in biomaterials. There are many studies conducted on its application, and the most recent is the use of rapid prototyping in a technique called assisted bioprinting to pattern viable cells and liquid, this technique if successful will pave the way for the creation of heterogenous artificial tissue and will revolutionize the medical field.
Rapid prototyping services have successfully not only the way prototypes are made but also many other industries with its innovations.