The Beginning Of Rapid Prototyping and 3D Printing
Rapid prototyping is the creation of 3D objects using advanced manufacturing technology. This technology has only been around since the 1980s. Today, the use of rapid prototyping is used by manufacturing companies not only to create prototypes for mass production, but in many cases are used to create the final products themselves, if the quantity is low enough.
Additionally, many modern artists use 3D printing services to create customized one-time art pieces, a creation that would have been much more expensive just a few years ago.
Prior to the advent of rapid prototyping technology, prototypes had to be built in just the same way large-scale manufacturing was done, only everything was customized for just one piece. This meant that the molds themselves had to be custom made for each prototype job.
The costs were astronomical. In the late 1980s, after computer technology had been around for a few years, scientists found a way that they could merge computers and manufacturing. This enabled companies to design their prototypes on computer, and the computer would send the file to a manufacturing machine that would build the prototype in layers based on the computer file specifications.
The building was done simply by pouring a mold-able layer and then firing before adding the next layer. This was an amazing cost savings to companies who needed the prototypes.
Unfortunately, rapid prototyping was still very slow, especially when you consider the time expensive of creating an object layer by layer. The process takes several hours to several days. Over time, rapid prototyping technology improved to make the models more accurate and more ready for usage.
Ultimately, this gave way to a form of prototyping called 3D printing.
3D printing is a form of rapid prototyping that uses layers, but is much quicker and more affordable than other types of creation. Products can even be made of different materials in a single build. 3D printing services are affordable for small businesses. The technology has even gone global.
In China, for instance, a computer prototype could be created to emulate the actual size and weight of the final product, and could even have the Chinese characters for computer ( – ) imprinted on the product as a label.
Manufacturing wouldn’t be where it is today without these amazing technological advances. 3D printing and rapid prototyping have and will continue to change the way business is done and the speed at which products reach the market.
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(Post from China rapid prototyping manufacturer blog)