Instant solutions such as rapid prototyping can successfully boost the production and manufacturing processes and in these times it’s vital to waste as little time as possible. In this article, we’re answering what does rapid prototyping mean and how to implement it in your production line.

ZMorph VX prototyping machine.
You can rapid prototype small parts as well as scaled designs to put them to a test.

Rapid Prototyping – Definition

The concept of rapid prototyping is pretty simple. It’s a fast way of fabricating physical parts or whole models using digital 3D modeling and additive manufacturing. It’s called “rapid” because it’s much faster than other types of prototyping, especially the ones involving injection molding, allowing to test and evaluate engineered products.

The Process of Rapid Prototyping Explained

The controlled method of rapid prototyping consists of several stages. In the beginning, is always the concept. Then you need to materialize the concept in CAD software. Only when the concept is somehow developed you can move forward to the beginning of rapid prototyping which is 3D modeling and preparing the file for a 3D printer or similar machine. 

3D printed prototypes.
Plastic 3D printed designs can be tested before using other methods to produce them from more expensive materials.

The next steps should be repeated until you achieve a satisfying result. Building a fast prototype with a 3D printer is time and cost-efficient. You can use cheap plastic filaments, low infill, and a thicker layer to minimize the usage of material and perform the operation faster. The 3D printed prototype should be tested and reviewed, and the necessary changes included in the digital model. Sometimes there will be a lot of iterations before achieving a good result, but this way of fabrication enables full control over the prototyping process before the final product is produced. 

What is rapid prototyping? Infographic.

The infographic above shows a simplified workflow using rapid prototyping. Before the concept design is sent to mass production (using injection molding for instance) you can make numerous iterations to put the idea into a test. The main notion behind fast prototyping is the ability to do a cheap analysis of tangible objects before spending real money on high volume production.

Benefits of Fast Prototyping

Thanks to rapid prototyping companies can save a lot of money and speed up the production process with more accurate designs. The main advantages of rapid prototyping are:

  • Low cost of prototyping and overall product development,
  • More control over the development process,
  • Ability to test various iterations,
  • Ability to test ergonomics of the product,
  • Cutting down the development time.

As usual, this way of manufacturing is not deprived of the disadvantages. We’ve listed some of them below.

ZMorph VX prototyping at Bricolab.
Various FabLabs give access to 3D printers where you can turn your ideas into tangible objects. In the picture: ZMorph VX at Bricolab in Brazil.

Drawbacks

Although rapid prototyping has many advantages that drive manufacturers’ attention, this process is not free of disadvantages. Here are some points to consider:

  • Possible low accuracy of 3D printed parts,
  • In some cases, the cost of making a prototype is higher than the result,
  • Presenting prototypes before the end product might confuse clients,
  • Requires special skills,
  • The material properties of the prototype may differ from the original project.

Despite some drawbacks, rapid prototyping can still be a very beneficial process. With the right skills and equipment, most manufacturers will overcome the initial difficulties and start gaining from this method.

Rapid prototyping.
Assembling of a drone using 3D printed parts.

Applications of Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping can be implemented literally in almost any manufacturing business, whether you own a small workshop or a big assembly line focused on mass production. With the advancement in technology, prototyping is now much easier than ever and it’s a good idea to test parts or whole products before creating a final design. The only place where this workflow may not be beneficial is when you produce cheap goods which are of similar manufacturing cost as 3D printed prototypes. 

A fast-made proof-of-concept 1:1 in scale can be touched, measured, and tested with corresponding components. Some ZMorph clients are using our machines on a regular basis for fast prototyping. Take for instance the case of INMED-Karczewscy where rapid prototyping is adopted to experiment with original designs and custom parts. 

3D printed prototypes.
3D printed prototype and end-result.

Within the company, we also made several functional prototypes. Using 3D printing technology, we were able to make a drone with $100 worth of parts or a model of an RC car

How to Start Rapid Prototyping Business?

If you’re a manufacturer and just became interested in rapid prototyping after reading this article we have some tips for you. To begin you’ll need a 3D printer such as ZMorph VX and a CAD software (more on that in the chapter below).

Click here to learn more about ZMorph VX All-in-One 3D Printer →

Think of how you can benefit from prototyping, how complex your designs are and which parts should be thoroughly tested beforehand. 3D printing opens up a lot of cheap possibilities that were unavailable before the invention of additive manufacturing. 

Rapid prototyping.
Scaled models of bike helmets 3D printed to see how the design looks in real life.

Analyze the process of manufacturing parts in your company. Do you have a lot of custom designs protected with copyrights? Do you have a lot of new creations that require comprehensive testing? If you do, implementing a 3D printer in the workflow is a great way of saving money on testing. 

Best Tools for Rapid Prototyping

You need a computer and an additive manufacturing machine to perform fast in-house prototyping, and at least two types of software. A CAD software is necessary to create a digital design which then will be transferred to a slicer software in order to prepare a G-code for a 3D printer.

Machines such as ZMorph VX All-in-One 3D Printer create a great environment for rapid prototyping because of a dedicated slicer software – Voxelizer – and additional features such as ZMorph Academy, ZMorph Materials Library, and comprehensive Knowledge Base. ZMorph VX is ready to use almost out of the box and Voxelizer covers all its workflows (that include CNC milling and laser engraving/cutting).

ZMorph VX.
ZMorph VX All-In-One 3D Printer.

Read the story of how a Polish company INMED is using ZMorph Multitool 3D Printer for rapid prototyping custom parts and testing original designs. 

3D printed iterations.
Testing various iterations of electronics case.

Afterword

Do you feel like your company can benefit from rapid prototyping? Don’t hesitate to contact our sales team to get a quote for ZMorph VX All-In-One 3D Printer or discuss implementing the machine in your workshop. We provide full technical support, a step-by-step guide, and a lot of valuable knowledge shared via social channels and blog. 

See what else you can do with ZMorph VX →

Author

Content Manager at ZMorph

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