Rapid Prototype Technology

Rapid prototyping (RP) was developed and first used in the 1980’s. It is a somewhat misleading term because its defining feature is not its speed – although it is, relatively speaking, a speedy process that can in some cases take only hours. The definition of rapid prototyping is the automatic fabrication of an object directly from Computer Aided Design (CAD) using additive manufacturing techniques. The CAD design is transformed by specialist software into an STL file format which is compatible with the additive manufacturing machine.

Additive manufacturing, which may also be referred to as solid freeform fabrication (SFF), means that the object is created by adding material. It is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing in which material is removed, like when carving in wood or stone. The material – which may consist of liquid, powder, sheet material or photopolymer resin – is laid down in layers, each layer corresponding with a cross-section in the CAD design.

The first rapid prototyping technique, stereolithography, was developed by 3D Systems of California. It uses the beam of a computer-controlled UV laser to harden UV-curable resin layer by layer as it is deposited. Other techniques include fused deposition modeling, laminated object manufacturing, selective laser sintering and three dimensional printing – all of which operate on basically the same principle.

When creating curved shapes, the curve is achieved by steps in the layers, therefore the thinner the layers, the more precise the contours and the higher the quality of the finished article. The layers are joined together or fused automatically. Some techniques use 2 materials. The first material is for the part itself, while the second, which provides support for such things as overhangs, is later removed by heat or dissolved away with water or a solvent.

Rapid prototyping can produce items or parts of quite extraordinary complexity and intricacy, giving a precise indication of what the design intends, and allowing for delicate adjustments and modifications. On the whole it is not a technique which is appropriate to the needs of the individual inventor, however, for reasons both of cost and of the materials which can be used and consequently the robustness of the finished item. The largest use of the technique is in the automotive industry, where prototypes are needed both for functional and aesthetic components.

Rapid prototype methodology is now being used increasingly to manufacture production-quality parts for actual use – the new and developing technology of rapid manufacturing. Rapid prototypes however can be made from only a limited range of materials, are typically coarse in their finish, and provide no economies for quantity because each item is made from scratch.

A development in this field, which overcomes some of the drawbacks, is rapid tooling (RT). This uses rapid prototyping to create an initial part from which a mold is fashioned to make further parts. The mold materials range from silicone rubber to composites.

A third option is rapid injection molding (RIM) which works directly from a CAD design using CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining to mill aluminum molds which then make true injection-molded parts.

All these techniques are generally out of the reach of the independent inventor who will probably be seeking one prototype, or a series of prototypes which gradually approach the perfect representation of the original idea, and certainly not multiple identical copies.

Rapid prototyping has various advantages relative to regular, traditional prototyping and also to the technologies which have taken its concept further. The revolutionary capability which it introduced is the automatic creation of physical 3D forms from computer images. Moreover, the additive fabrication technique which it utilizes has the ability to produce almost any geometric shape or feature with absolute fidelity to the original design. With suitable material, shapes can be highly convoluted and even include parts nested within parts.

Moving away from the independent investor for whom rapid prototyping is not generally suitable, the technique has had a significant impact on certain fields of production engineering. The ability to produce an accurate model of a product or component direct from the design greatly facilitates communication between designer, manufacturer, marketer, purchaser and user, all of whom can visualize the final product and, where relevant, make sure they are entirely satisfied before manufacturing commences. This in turn decreases development time because changes can be made, and errors detected and rectified, before production, thus eliminating or decreasing costly mistakes. Projects are less risky, take less time, and their overall cost is less so output can be higher.

Once the product has been manufactured and gone into use, the same time and cost savings apply when it becomes desirable to make adjustments to improve its effectiveness. Thus necessary features can be added and redundant features eliminated comparatively early in the life of the design. Additional advantages of rapid prototyping include the non-industry-specific nature of the technique and the facility for creating a large number of variants on a single model.

Certain other processes have been developed taking the concept of rapid prototyping a step further. Examples here are rapid tooling and rapid injection molding, both of which have advantages and disadvantages compared with rapid prototyping itself.

Rapid prototyping is faster than the other two procedures mentioned and can produce complex shapes. If only a few parts are needed it is relatively inexpensive (in a production engineering context), but for a quantity of parts there is no saving because each one takes as long and costs as much as the first. The finish on the product tends to be somewhat rough, and there are only a few materials which can be used. If strength or heat-resistance need to be tested, for example, this can make the process a poor choice for assessing a part’s function.

For rapid tooling there is still a limited choice of materials, and the need to make molds restricts the complexity of the designs which can be produced. Also the time taken is a little longer. However the quality of the parts is significantly superior to that produced by rapid prototyping.

Rapid injection molding also provides good quality components, and additionally, because of the wider variety of materials which can be used in the metal molds, the functionality of the parts can be more readily tested. The time it takes is comparable with that of rapid tooling, and can be contrasted very favorably with that of traditional injection molding which, while providing the ultimate in quality, takes weeks or months as opposed to days.

While your ideas may be great for manufacturing, you may not know the different prototyping methods that are available to ensure that you are able to ensure that your products are able to enter the market for sale or manufacturing as quickly as possible, such as the different types of rapid prototyping. It is no secret to inventors that the prototype is definitely a top priority if you want to follow the most efficient process to get your inventions seen and purchased, so why not understand the methods to do so?

What is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping technologies are collective instruments that are used for quick fabrication of invention models, including those that utilize CAD data for design. What types exist?

  • 3D automated CAD prototyping
  • Free-form manufacturing
  • Computer automation manufacturing
  • Layered manufacture prototyping
  • Rapid tooling prototyping
  • Rapid prototyping plastic injection molding

There are many different names for the process, methods of completing the process, and results to expect from the process—all providing you with a quicker turnaround for release of your inventions.

Rapid Tooling Prototyping Company

Of course, there are just some processes of manufacturing your inventions that you either won’t be able to or won’t desire to complete yourself. Instead, there are invention services offered, that are best received after you have obtained the appropriate patent for your invention, as well as the guidance of a legal professional if you aren’t sure of what processes to complete by way of patents.

Finding a rapid tooling company to create your prototypes isn’t difficult, and can be done online or offline, with many directories offered on the web to help you find those that are most appropriate for your specific needs. Every invention is different and will call for different processes and methods of commercialization, with great potential for those that are willing to take the time to locate the services that will most benefit their specific invention design, manufacturing, and marketing.

Rapid prototyping is a process that emerged quickly during the 80’s and is now one of the more commonly utilized methods of creating a mold or assembly that can be used for the starting processes of manufacturing and marketing, depending on the route you are taking for each. You will find that the companies offering services you require will vary in service provisions, size, specialty, and cost—meaning that your research is the best tool you have for getting the services you want.

If you decide that rapid prototyping is the next step in your invention management process, there are options out there to choose from. Whether you are seeking a consultation or the services that you need, there are resources on the web that can help you make sure that your decision is best—protecting not only your idea but the integrity of your process, whether selling, licensing, or manufacturing. Knowing your best decision isn’t always easy, but if you are willing to commit to the work ahead, you can easily find yourself succeeding in the many different processes you approach.

Inventors today have a wealth of options when it comes to commercializing their ideas to a profitable level. While selling invention ideas is often a chosen route for investors desiring a profit without the risks of self-management, you can also choose an invention manufacturing company if you desire to manage your own invention and even create a business from the ideas you generate.

Understanding the Invention Manufacturing Process

You have a lot to gain from each process you choose to venture into when it comes to inventions—especially when you decide to take your project into your own hands. There are two forms of assistance an invention manufacturing company will provide to you, which includes hands-on assistance that serves as a guide and full management from top to bottom, including prototypes and marketing.

Risks and Costs

If you so decide to surpass selling your invention and move forward into manufacturing of your invention, you will assume the risks and costs of the venture. There are several costs associated, which include models, tooling, and even branding, while risks can be quite great, especially if you are inexperienced. Utilizing manufacturing services can help decrease these costs and risks, giving you a better foundation from the start.

Organization of the Process and Those to Follow

Manufacturing companies are especially beneficial for providing great organization of your invention processes from manufacturing on. Taking on manufacturing on your own will require that you establish a warehouse for inventory, importing strategies and sources, and distribution methods that can ensure success throughout the process. A credible invention manufacturing service can provide these steps for your—letting you sit back and collect the benefits of all necessary steps in the commercialization of your inventions.

Professional and Experienced Manufacturing

Definitely a challenge to those without business and project management, or other relevant training, manufacturing companies serve as the intermediary to all your affairs. Depending on the level of services you obtain, you can use these companies to complete each process for you. The professionals that work with your inventions are experienced in the market, and can take your inventions to new heights, preventing you from hitting the roadblocks common for those that aren’t familiar with the necessary steps to take.

Credibility

You will never encounter a venture that is more in need of confidentiality—your ideas can be taken from you easily if you haven’t secured them properly!

There are often those out there that wouldn’t mind getting free ideas, marketing them, and profiting off all your hard work and years of observation and research. Always remember to patent your ideas and seek out the proper legal assistance for the process—giving you the safeguard that matters most when it comes to your inventions.

No more wondering ‘how to manufacture my invention’. Instead, take the steps to go forward with a venture that can provide you with all the treasures you have ever dreamed of. You have nothing to lose but time if you do the proper research to ensure you coordinate with the proper invention marketing professionals for your type of invention.

 


 

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