Rapid prototyping encompasses a range of manufacturing techniques used to generate a physical model from a computerized one. Although the specifics depend on the method used, the general concept is simple: engineers upload a CAD file into a machine, and that machine quickly and accurately reproduces the model in a physical medium. Because of its numerous benefits, the process is growing in popularity across industries.
The biggest draw is its speed; rapid prototyping streamlines the product development process by allowing a functional model to be produced in hours or days rather than weeks. This concept is ideal for many companies since it allows for faster and sounder decisions on whether a design needs to be altered before production.
Contact us today to discuss your rapid prototyping needs.
Rapid Prototyping Applications
Rapid prototyping is best suited for small components, particularly those that could be usefully modeled in thermoplastics. Still, this scarcely narrows the field of applicable industries.
The Hendey Group serves a diverse customer base that finds utility in rapid prototyping for concept models or functional prototypes. Such industries include:
- Renewable Energy
- Traction Applications
- Oil and Gas
- Consumer Goods
- Sporting Equipment
- Battery and Energy Storage
Rapid Prototyping Advantages
Rapid prototyping poses many benefits over alternative methods. Aside from its speed, it also carries advantages, such as:
- Versatility: The variety of common rapid prototyping techniques means that the process can be adapted to many products.
- Labor Savings: Because the model is generated entirely by machine based on a computer model, very little human labor goes into the prototyping process.
- Precision and Utility: Compared to machining, rapid prototyping machines can produce more accurate depictions of the final product. This allows for more extensive testing in less time.
Producing fully functioning prototypes will help ensure that potential investors understand your product’s purposes and capabilities. A well-executed prototype makes entrepreneurs appear more professional when meeting with potential investors, which gives them a big advantage.
Choose the Best Rapid Prototyping Process for Your Needs
The optimal rapid prototyping process for a given product requires careful consideration. Each prototyping technique has its own strengths and weaknesses, which must be balanced against the constraints of your project. Most rapid prototyping will rely on a form of 3D printing. The most common options are:
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): FDM is one of the cheapest methods of rapid prototyping, heating, and extruding a polymer substrate to form the product layer by layer. The models are generally accurate but lack the same level of fine detail afforded by some other options. It can also be slower than other processes. It is still useful for concept modeling and even certain functional prototyping projects.
- Stereolithography (SLA): SLA involves a different additive fabrication process wherein a laser beam traces a design into a photopolymer. The process is fast and cost-effective, but much pricier than FDM modeling. The key benefit of SLA is it produces extremely high-quality, high-resolution prints.
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): SLS prototyping closely resembles SLA, but the main differences lie in the materials used. With SLS, the base is not a photopolymer but rather particles of ceramic, metal, or plastic that must be fused together. This results in the highest level of detail compared to other techniques, but often at a higher cost. The prototypes can be functional straight out of the printer, which is ideal for applications that require rigorous testing before production.
An alternative to the 3D printing processes mentioned above is urethane casting. This process utilizes 3D printed master patterns and silicone molds to cast urethane material into low-cost, high-quality precision parts. Similarly to 3D printing, it allows manufacturers to rapidly produce prototypes (and production-level parts), enabling them to have greater design flexibility.
Turning Your Ideas Into Products at The Hendey Group
Prototyping is one of the most crucial stages of product development. A well-rendered model gives you the best possible insight as to the form and function of your final component. Rapid prototyping expedites the procedure, making it faster and easier to make critical design decisions.
At The Hendey Group, we draw on our extensive engineering experience to take your product from concept to reality, advising you on the best prototyping techniques along the way. For more information about how we can benefit your design, submit your inquiry today.