There are different packages available for rapid prototyping. Each package offers different features depending on your needs. Choosing the right Rapid Prototyping Method for your production is crucial to ensure the best results for the production step. It is best to consult with the rapid prototyping company you are working with before considering the best option for your production. Here are the different types of prototyping methods:

Stereolithography (SLA)

SLA is a fast and economical Rapid Prototyping Method of rapid prototyping. It was the first commercially successful 3D printing process. The SLA process uses a bath of photosensitive liquid that is solidified layer by layer by computer-controlled ultraviolet light. The SLA method is best used for prototyping parts that can be inserted into other assembly parts.

Benefits of SLA:

  • Create smooth surfaces for your prototypes.
  • Provide accurate dimensions and measurements for your prototypes.
  • Easily add post-processing to your prototypes, such as painting.
  • Fast and inexpensive production process and material costs.
  • Resistance to moisture and heat, so your prototypes will last a long time.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering uses a powder bed to build a model in layers by heating and sintering the powdered material with a laser. SLS can be used to produce both metal and plastic prototypes. SLS parts have better strength properties than SLA parts. SLA vs. SLS? SLS parts require post-processing because the finished surface is rougher. Use this process if you want to create a stronger or more durable prototype or part for your project.

Benefits of SLS:

  • Provide you with better mechanical properties for rapid prototypes.
  • Eliminates unnecessary production steps to reduce your manufacturing time.
  • Requires the use of less plastic to make the prototypes.
  • Gives you the best results when using post-processing effects such as colouring and staining.
  • No need to use support structures to build your prototypes.
  • Empty spaces can be filled with powders that are laser sintered to create the prototypes or final products you want.

FDM or Material Jetting 

FDM, or material jetting, is a low-cost and easy-to-use process. It uses a thermoplastic filament that melts in the barrel of a print nozzle and then deposits the liquid plastic layer by layer. The process is fast and inexpensive, making it ideal for product development. In addition, Material Jetting or FDM can be used to create highly detailed parts or prototypes, making it an ideal rapid prototyping method for creating small prototypes for your projects.

Benefits of FDM or material jetting:

  • The accuracy of the material jetting process can help to make efficient use of materials, resulting in less waste.
  • Producing highly accurate parts for your prototypes is easy with this method.
  • It can support the production of highly detailed parts down to 14 microns.
  • You can apply multiple colours to the prototypes with this method and even apply these colours in a single production step.
  • Material jetting can produce smooth surfaces for the hardware parts or prototypes you create.

Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

SLM is the process of choice for producing high-strength and complex parts. SLM is widely used in the aerospace, automotive and medical industries. Common SLM materials include titanium, aluminium, stainless steel and cobalt-chrome alloys. So if you have a metal prototype that needs to be prepared for further production, this is the rapid prototyping method of choice.

Benefits of SLM:

  • Create metal parts, components and prototypes with superior strength, toughness and durability.
  • Highly accurate for producing small part details required for further assembly.
  • The melting process is simple to use and offers a wide range of metal materials.
  • You can use the autoclave method to sterilise materials for selective laser melting.
  • This process supports the use of complex geometric designs.

LOM or Sheet Lamination

Compared to SLM and SLS, LOM is less expensive and easier to operate. It does not require special control conditions. LOM consists of a series of thin layers stacked on top of each other. Each layer is transferred and bonded to the previous layer until the part is complete. This 3D printing method can help you easily produce larger parts.

Benefits of LOM or sheet lamination:

  • You don’t need to make a support for the prototypes if you use this method.
  • It is significantly cheaper and quicker to produce parts or prototypes using sheet lamination.
  • No significant stock requirements for the materials you use for the LOM process as it uses widely available materials.
  • LOM supports the creation of prototypes with complex shapes.
  • You can apply various details with the highest accuracy.
  • Not much handling is required to complete the sheet lamination process, which helps to reduce operator stress.

Digital Light Processing

Like SLA, DLP uses resin polymerisation. DLP is faster and less expensive than SLA. DLP requires post-curing and the use of support structures. Digital Light Processing improves on the SLA process in many ways, for example, you can get more detail in the prototypes you make. You can also use DLP to further improve surface quality compared to SLA.

Benefits of Digital Light Processing:

  • This method provides a more detailed result for the prototypes you create with it.
  • It helps you to create various complex geometric features for your parts.
  • The DLP method allows you to create hollow parts or components.
  • A variety of materials are available for Digital Light Processing, giving you flexibility and versatility in your production.
  • It offers a lower total cost per unit and the rapid prototyping process can be very fast, minimising your waiting time.
  • DLP also enables you to produce prototypes with higher surface quality.

Binder Jetting

Binder Jetting can print one or more parts at a time. However, binder jetting produces weaker parts than SLS. However, it still provides the best quality for your 3D printed prototypes.

Benefits of Binder Jetting:

  • Binder Jetting provides high resolution, high quality prints for 3D prototypes based on your design.
  • Producing multiple parts or prototypes is a breeze with binder jetting, making it the preferred manufacturing solution when you have a tight deadline.
  • No tooling is required, so you can print prototypes based on your project requirements, no matter how many units or versions you need.
  • It also eliminates most of the waste from the production process, making it more environmentally friendly and cleaner for the environment.
  • This method offers great flexibility and freedom in the design process.
  • It can simplify all the production steps, so binder jetting can add more efficiency to your rapid prototyping process.
  • Binder Jetting also supports print-on-demand, so you don’t have to build up a large inventory just to produce your prototypes.

CNC Prototyping

Ideas become reality through the exciting process of CNC prototyping, which uses machinery that is controlled by a computer.

Benefits of CNC rapid prototyping:

  • CNC prototyping produces accurate models that meet design specifications.
  • CNC prototyping speeds up the testing and improvement phases.
  • CNC machines offer design flexibility with different materials.
  • CNC prototyping enables complex designs beyond traditional methods.
  • CNC prototyping is cost effective without the need for additional labour or tooling.
  • Innovation thrives with CNC prototyping for rapid design revisions.

Vacuum Casting

Vacuum casting is a manufacturing process for producing accurate prototypes or low-volume products. To ensure perfect reproduction of fine details and even material distribution, liquid ingredients are poured into a silicone mould under vacuum.

Benefits of vacuum casting:

  • Vacuum casting faithfully reproduces fine details and textures.
  • It offers material flexibility through the use of different polyurethane resins.
  • Vacuum casting is an economical method for low volume production.
  • Short lead times for prototypes and short runs.
  • Design flexibility for intricate features and complex geometries.
  • Before production, vacuum cast prototypes are useful for testing and validation.

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