Rapid Prototyping Technologies And It’s Applications

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Rapid Prototyping Technologies

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The technology used in rapid prototyping printers for producing 3D models is computer assisted design (CAD) software such as Pro-e, Auto CAD, Solid-works, and etc,  which directs hardware to precise specifications to produce three dimensional models. The efficiency of rapid prototyping to produce models for various companies and allow design changes to be made quickly and easily has found this technology an excellent solution for fulfilling their rapid prototyping needs.

As the implications for rapid prototyping printers continue to develop the applications for the manufacturing of products is expanding. If a product is desired by the business they can simply purchase a CAD file upload it and use rapid prototyping printers to reproduce it. With fabrication materials for use in rapid prototyping printers continuing to advance the use of metals, plastics and polymers contributes to the wide application of rapid prototyping printers.

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Convenience of Using Rapid Prototyping technologies

Rapid prototyping printers not only make product availability more convenient for companies but for consumers also. The technology once used only by manufacturers is now available for consumer use in their business or at home. Rapid prototyping printers provide an enhanced ability for the production of models and products. If a new brush or comb is desired, rapid prototyping printers can produce one very conveniently.

Rapid prototyping printers can be used for a variety of products constructed of numerous kinds of materials. The technology used in rapid prototyping printers is computer assisted design software utilized to build a 3 dimensional model. The model is produced layer by layer until an exact reproduction is produced according to the specifications dictated by the program.

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If a small business needs a product or model produced there is no need to maintain workshops with specialized tools or expensive skilled craftspeople as with traditional modeling. Rapid prototyping printers can provide the technology necessary to produce 3D models more conveniently and in shorter periods of time and for less money. In today’s business environment in order for a small business to grow the capability to produce products in a cost efficient manner is crucial for success. Rapid prototyping printers provide the technology for small businesses that are seeking more convenient and cost effective manufacturing options.

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Growing Applications for Rapid Prototyping technologies

The computer assisted design applications of rapid prototyping technologies are numerous compared to traditional prototyping methods. Traditional methods required the use of large, bulky and sophisticated equipment which also required a major investment for businesses to own. Rapid prototyping printers however are reasonably sized, compact and much less expensive. The set up time and simple operation has made rapid prototyping printers popular for creating models, machine parts and toys.

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Advantages of Rapid prototyping Technologies

The almost unlimited flexibility and potential applications of rapid prototyping printers to create replicas is a distinct applications advantage of this technology over traditional methods. If a CAD program can be created and suitable materials developed the application of rapid prototyping printers is immense.

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Also, unlike some prototyping techniques the rapid prototyping printers produces no toxic chemicals from nor uses any toxic substances during the production process. Due to their safe operation the potential locations for where rapid prototyping printers can be set up and operated increases their application potential.

Additional advantages gained from the application of rapid prototyping printers is that post production work is minimized, only the removal of excess materials produced during the production process is necessary. The applications of rapid prototyping printers are many including reduced costs, efficiency and safety. As new innovations for rapid prototyping printers are developed so will additional applications and markets open up as well.

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Rapid Prototyping / History / Prototyping Technologies

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Rapid Prototyping

History of Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping is quite a recent invention. The first machine of rapid prototyping hit the markets in the late 1980s. The early rapid prototyping process derived its name from the activities and the purpose for which the earlier machines were utilized.

What is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping refers to physical objects that are automatically constructed with the aid of additive manufacturing technology.

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Rapid prototyping in its earlier days was applied to production of models and prototype parts. But nowadays with the advancement in technology, rapid prototyping is used widely for many applications that include manufacturing production-quality parts. The manufacturing of these quality parts however are very small in numbers. Apart from industrial applications, rapid prototyping is also used in sculpting. The application of rapid prototyping in sculpting is to generate fine arts exhibitions.

Rapid prototyping as mentioned earlier, involves the use of additive manufacturing technology which actually takes the virtual designs from computer aided design (CAD) or animation modeling software (AMS).

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These designs are further transformed into thin, virtual, horizontal cross sections and then the process of creating successive layers continues till the model in complete. On completion of the model, one may find that the virtual model is almost same as the physical model. Over here a process called WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) takes place wherein the final product is same as the image created. Once the layers which correspond to the virtual cross section from CAD are formed, they are either joined or fused automatically to yield the final shape. Additive fabrication has the benefit of creating any shape or geometric feature.

Working of Rapid Prototyping Machines

CAD software and the rapid prototyping machine are connected with a data interface that is called as the STL file format.

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This STL file format enables the approximation of a shape of a part or the entire assembly using triangular facets. Smaller the facet, higher is the quality surface. One should consider the meaning of the word rapid as ‘relative’, as the construction process of a model with the contemporary methods can take up a long time which can be several hours to several days. It actually depends upon the complexity and size of the model. The method used over here also plays an important role. Sometimes the type of machine being used also influences the time taken for the creation of a new model though the additive systems are applied. Even here the size and the number of models to be created play an equally important role.

There are some other techniques that are used in the construction of parts. The technique used in solid free-form fabrication involves the use of two materials in the construction of parts. One of it is the building material of that part and the other is the support material. The use of support material is to provide support to the projecting features during construction.

In case of manufacturing polymer products in higher quantities, a process called traditional injection molding is more feasible in terms of cost, but when it comes to manufacturing parts in smaller volumes, the application of additive fabrication is recommended more and is cost effective.

Prototyping Technologies

Some of the prototyping technologies used in various rapid prototyping machines are as follows:

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS):

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This technology involves the use of high power laser for the fusion of tiny particles of plastic, metal etc, into a mass that represents a desired 3D object, through the help of a SLS machine. This is an additive manufacturing technique. Materials used in this technique are metal powders and thermoplastics.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM):

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This additive manufacturing technology was invented in the late 1980s by S. Scott Crump and is used for applications like modeling, prototyping and production. This technology involves the use of eutectic metals and thermoplastics.

Stereo lithography (SLA):

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This also is an additive manufacturing technology and is used for production of models, patterns etc through the Stereo lithography machine. Photo-polymer is the principle material used in this technique.

Laminated object manufacturing (LOM):

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Paper material is the base material used in this technology. In this method layers of adhesive-coated plastic, paper or metal laminates are fused together and cut into shape with the aid of a knife or a laser cutter.

3D Printing:

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This too is an additive manufacturing technology and involves the use of various materials. In this technology successive layers of material create a 3D object. 3D printing technology actually is said to be more affordable, easy to use and speedy than the additive manufacturing technologies. Though production applications are actually dominated by the additive manufacturing technologies, 3D has a great potential to prove useful in the production applications.

Rapid prototyping, is now entering into rapid manufacturing which is more advanced as compared to rapid prototyping machines as it can be used for large products. This is an additive fabrication technique, that would be applied to the manufacturing of solid objects. This process involves the sequential delivery of energy, material (material sometimes may not be used) to the specified points in space, in order to produce a particular part. Rapid manufacturing is an advanced form of this technology.