Rapid Prototyping is a group of techniques used to quickly fabricate a scale model of a part or assembly using three-dimensional CAD data.
Rapid Prototyping has been referred to as:
- Solid Free-Form Manufacturing
- Computer Automated Manufacturing
- Layered Manufacturing
Rapid Prototyping has obvious use as a vehicle for visualization. Rapid Prototyping models can also be used for testing, such as when an airfoil shape is put into a wind tunnel.
Rapid Prototyping models can be used to create male models for tooling, such as silicone rubber molds and investment casts. In some cases, the RP part can be the final part, but typically the RP material is not strong or accurate enough.
What are the goals of Rapid Prototyping?
- To decrease development time
- To increase effective communication
- To minimize sustaining engineering changes
- To decrease costly mistakes
- To extend product lifetime by adding necessary features and eliminating redundant features early in the design
Rapid Prototyping decreases development time by allowing corrections to be made to a product early on in the process. By giving a look at the product early in the design process, mistakes can easily be corrected and changes can still be made while they are inexpensive.
The trends in manufacturing industries emphasize the following:
- Increasing number of variants of products
- Increasing product complexity
- Decreasing product lifetime before obsolescence
- Decreasing delivery time