RAPID PROTOTYPING means the rapid production of a model or prototype through an additive 3D printing forming process. Individual parts, but also small series can be produced in this way according to 3D CAD files, whereby the layer-by-layer application of formless or form-neutral materials is implemented. Both physical and chemical effects are used. Less frequently, processes such as casting, moulding and also extrusion are used. In the past, RAPID PROTOTYPING was used especially in the automotive industry to create production parts and customised models. Today it is also used in industries such as medical technology and aerospace.
Speed and flexibility are competitive advantages. Those who manage to present prototypes in a short time that accurately simulate the properties of the later series types can generally expect more orders. But speed alone is not everything! 'Rapid' the process may be, but it also brings other advantages: RAPID PROTOTYPING is extremely cost-efficient; because it is automated, it requires fewer personnel. Furthermore, when used correctly and computerised, it is extremely precise. Almost no material is wasted in the manufacturing process, and no special tools are needed. All these factors combined, significantly avoid the usual risks in development and the errors that used to be common.
Most RAPID PROTOTYPINGS use additive processes. With their help, companies can create representative prototypes that can go into series and mass production promptly after approval. This gives a very practical, comprehensive picture of what the product will look like in the end and how it will perform.
RAPID PROTOTYPING can be carried out with very high as well as with rather low accuracy. When the design is close to the final part, managers refer to it as a 'very high fidelity prototype'; when it is not, they refer to it as a 'low fidelity prototype'. Designers and constructors use RAPID PROTOTYPING to give an end customer or the decision-makers in their own company a visual and haptic idea of what the product will look like in the end. The employees in conception and design receive faster feedback and can quickly implement and test desired changes to the prototype. Through the iterative process, existing and also later customer requests and optimisations are better integrated. RAPID PROTOTYPING enables companies to approach customers more confidently and to respond more quickly to their wishes and needs.