What is rapid prototyping?

We invite you to discover a little more about rapid prototyping through the following two questions: what is rapid prototyping? And how does it work? If you would like further information on the progress of your project, please contact us by e-mail or via our quote request page.

Definition of rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping is a general term. The field of plastics processing concerns the production of 3D parts and small series of technical parts by means of various manufacturing processes. The principle is to produce a prototype to simulate series parts, allowing the validation of the characteristics of a part such as its functionality and design. The term “rapid” is important in this designation. This means that the parts are obtained within very short deadlines, with the advantage of validating the different stages of development of a project as rapidly as possible before the industrialisation stage.

The companies involved

The two main players are the prototypist and the user. The first is a company specialising in rapid prototyping that provides technical parts by the unit to the second. The user can thus use the parts under real conditions during visual and functional tests, and decide to develop the project or not depending on the results. Thus, the user can modify or validate the design and the technical criteria of the plastic parts. In addition, other companies are involved in the various stages of rapid prototyping. The 3D files, also called digital models, are designed by consulting firms, for example.

The functioning of rapid prototyping

Sequence: The company requiring the production of prototypes or small series of plastic parts contacts a prototypist. The user specifies the various parameters of the specification before launching the 3D manufacturing of the models. These parameters include:

  • the desired surface finish,
  • the applications,
  • the choice of materials,
  • the tolerances,
  • the quantity of technical plastic parts, etc.

The principle: Prototypists use several processes to assurer manufacture small series of technical parts and 3D prototypes. Each production method has its own specificities and operating principle. They use different tooling, such as prototype moulds or machining centres. These processes include, for example, custom 3D printing, which is highly popular among the general public. This 3D printing technique is part of the additive manufacturing category. It consists of the 3D production of prototypes using a printer. However, 3D printed parts have many limitations. In addition, 3D technologies represent a small part of rapid prototyping, which also encompasses so-called traditional techniques. It is possible, for example, to use vacuum casting, which ensures the production of plastic parts by low-pressure injection. It is also possible to use 3D machining, which, as its name suggests, operates by machining a block of the correct plastic material. Rapid prototyping thus ensures the manufacturing of 3D prototypes using different technologies.

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