rapid prototyping

 
 

CNC | FDM | SLA | SLS | Precision Investment Casting | Laser Cutting | Photo Etching

 

The main practical application of 3D digital modeling in professional model making is having parts, components and whole models being produced by rapid prototyping machines. As we mentioned before, it takes off model maker's shoulders a hassle of time and effort combusting manual fabrication. Rapid prototyped parts are deadly accurate, solid, durable and can be grown or carved on a machine in a matter of days or even hours, which speeds up the whole model building process and allows to meet impossible before deadlines.

 

Upon completion of a 3D digital model a model maker generates a Digital Tooling, which is, roughly, a set of parts, grouped and positioned in a manner that benefits the most the outcome of a rapid prototyping production. Parts and components that we are getting off the machine in most cases look very similar to plastic model kits.

 

A massive and intensive propaganda of so called "3D printers" lead public, including our customers, to recognize these devices as a face of rapid prototyping, which is a wrong assumption. Although it is a matter of terminology, in fact every SLA, SLS or FDM machine can be called "3D printer". However, such machines are professional rapid production systems, costly, required to be run and maintain by professionals and producing quality, long living parts suitable to be used in professional model making. Such systems have little to do with portable, mostly desktop sized, "real" 3D printers, producing mostly small, unstable parts suitable for quick look and simulation at best. Yet 3D printers are being massively promoted to the architectural, engineering and design community as an ultimate and "do it yourself" solution.

 

In reality rapid prototyping techniques, that able to produce high quality, durable, professional parts and components provide much greater diversity, versatility and flexibility. Such methods are different by their nature, material, resolution and a cost of production. It is unwise to target all parts to be produced by the same technique, when utilizing a diversity of methods will give a better result and a cost saving.

 

While designing a digital tooling a model maker virtually divides parts and components into groups targeted to be produced by specific rapid prototyping technique, where such technique will give the best result by the most cost effective way.

Example: It would be very wrong and very costly to produce a flat, low relief, without undercuts part by SLA or FDM. CNC carving will do the job and for a fraction of price.

Another example: There is no reason to produce a part  with low volume of details by SLA, especially if that part will play a role in model's structural integrity. The right choice to produce such model is FDM. A little more work to finish a part's surface will be compensated by lower cost of FDM and high durability of styrene based material used by FDM method.

 

In addition to earlier mentioned SLA, SLS, CNC and FDM methods we also anticipate another techniques, which, for some reason, are not being considered as rapid prototyping techniques, although, in fact, they are. These techniques include laser cutting/engraving and photo-etching. These two did find its rightful place in model making process long time ago and can beat newer rapid prototyping methods for selected parts by quality and price as well.

As modern rapid prototyping methods are evolving, they provide more opportunities. One of the most important opportunities is to produce metal parts by Investment Casting.

 

It is a fact, though, that rapid prototyping is still be an expensive process. The materials and a machine's time are costly, however use of rapid prototyping methods does not affect an overall model's cost, while dramatically reduces a production time and raises the model's quality and durability.

 

Click on any of the icons below to learn more about each particular Rapid Prototyping Technique.

 

CNC

FDM

SLA

SLS

Precision Investment Casting

Laser Cutting

Photo Etching

 

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