Rapid prototyping is one of the key factors to developing parts that get the job done more efficiently. The process itself allows skilled manufacturers to quickly test different materials in different shapes and sizes to see which one will deliver the best results. Rapid prototyping is key for manufacturers in any specialty since you never know when parts will be needed. So, what is the primary application for rapid prototyping and how can it help solve problems?
What is Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid prototyping is the quick production of a part, model, or assembly—often using a computer-aided design (CAD) program. The process itself may use 3D printing or high-speed machining, casting, molding, or extruding. The main goal of the rapid prototyping process is to gain effective insights and feedback early in the design phase. There are distinct benefits of rapid prototyping, which we outlined in this blog.
There are now a variety of methods that rapid prototyping can use to create a prototype model through specific techniques. It is a continuously evolving method, so there’s always more to learn and develop. However, as the process continues to be used, two primary applications for rapid prototyping have emerged.
Functional Application of Rapid Prototyping
Rapid prototyping applies to many technologies and materials, making it a versatile technique for many applications. Functional applications include the creation of a variety of parts and models. A functional application for a prototype fits a more traditional definition of a prototype: allowing for multiple tests and revisions before finalizing the design.
A concept model of future products allows designers to test and validate their ideas, which they can then take back to design a new model. Additionally, a physical concept model means concepts can demonstrate its validity to board members, investors, etc.
A functional prototype allows engineers, developers, and designers to fully process details that provide a precise view of the finished product—allowing them to verify the validity of the prototype before moving on to the next stage of development.
The very idea of prototyping is great because the design, fit, manufacturability, and function of the product can be tested early and often before moving on to full production: a considerably more expensive process. Having a highly functional prototype that achieves the delicate balance of functionality, aesthetics, and cost is possible when rapid prototyping methods are employed.
Industrial applications of rapid prototyping have utilized 3D printing.
Industrial Application of Rapid Prototyping
The technology behind rapid prototyping also offers the potential to significantly reduce the time needed from the initial conceptualization of the product to finalizing the design and making it available for use. Depending on the situation, a prototype may be used in the field by the end-user.
Within the medical field, rapid prototyping is often applied to surgical planning, diagnosis, training, and the design and manufacture of custom implants. CAD is also employed to design new medical products. They shorten the time to market and help researchers.
In mechanical engineering, rapid prototyping is frequently used to form and fit large mechanical models. This allows ease in analysis and helps identify high-stress points while also serving as visualization and proof of concept. Additionally, rapid prototyping finds frequent use in the automotive and aerospace industries.
Additionally, the industrial application of rapid prototyping has been used to develop household electronics and even clothing. In 2021, for example, Adidas started using rapid prototyping and 3D printing to develop footwear.
Let Breiner Help You!
The rapid prototyping process brings with it many benefits and applications companies can leverage to improve the performance of a variety of systems around the shop, and it often comes down to having one part that can excel at the job it needs to do. Having a partner who can help you figure out what that part is, what it does, what it needs to look like, and what it should be made of will help you better leverage the benefits of rapid prototyping. As one of our many capabilities, Breiner Innovative is skilled at many rapid prototyping methods, so if you’re looking for a partner who does things better, contact us today!