Rapid prototyping is the umbrella term for various processes for the rapid production of sample components based on the design data. Most rapid prototyping processes – except, for example, polyamide casting – can be attributed to additive manufacturing or .dem 3D printing because they work with layer-by-layer material application and without the use of a mold. Rapid prototyping refers to the type of application: while rapid tooling refers to the production of tools and rapid manufacturing to the production of components and finished products, rapid prototyping refers to the creation of prototypes and models.
Procedures of Rapid Prototyping
Apart from polyamide casting, rapid prototyping processes are manufacturing processes that aim to convert existing CAD data directly and quickly into workpieces without manual detours or molds. For the additive process group, the STL format is usually used as a data interface. The processes that have become known as rapid prototyping since the 1980s are usually original mold processes that build up the workpiece layer by layer from shapeless or shape-neutral material using physical and/or chemical effects.
In conjunction with other modern technologies such as reverse engineering, CAD, virtual reality and modern toolmaking processes, the process chain within product development is also referred to as rapid product development. This is a subfield of production automation.
In the past, the term “rapid prototyping” was also used as an umbrella term for the various additive manufacturing processes. In addition to “rapid prototyping”, terms such as additive manufacturing, layered manufacturing, freeform fabrication, desktop manufacturing, layer manufacturing technology, advanced digital manufacturing (ADM), e-manufacturing, etc. were also used. In the meantime, however, “additive manufacturing”, “additive manufacturing processes” and “3D printing” have become established as an umbrella term.
Due to this greatly increased range of applications for generatively manufactured components, new requirements are constantly being placed on generatively manufactured components, which can be solved by downstream technologies in generative processes such as surface technology. For example, ablation processes such as sandblasting or vibratory grinding make it possible to level the stages caused by the construction process. It is also possible to paint or metallize the additively manufactured workpieces.