The rise of 3D printed parts and 'rapid prototyping' services have been a boon to designers in recent years. There are a myriad of different process and material combinations to choose from.
Also, CNC machining improvements, more availability of multi-axis machining and computer controlled metal cutting and fabrication techniques all add the rich variety of tools a designer has at his disposal for creating product prototypes.
If it is 3D printing that is required, then knowing what type of 3D printing and what material to choose for different applications is crucial to getting a prototype that is suited to your needs.
The design of the prototype needs to take into account the limitations and properties of the prototyping methods and materials you intend to use.
Some of the common types of Rapid Prototyping (3D printing) systems are:
- SLA (Stereolithography) – This is a process where resin is solidified by intersecting lasers in layers to build a solid part.
- SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) – Is a process where a laser draws a sectional shape of your part onto a bed of powder, where it melts the powder into a solid. After each layer, a roller lays a fresh layer of powder on top of the bed and the process repeats.
- FDM (Fused deposition modelling) - FDM works by laying down material in layers; a plastic filament is unwound from a coil, heated, and laid down on top of the previous layer where is melts into the existing form.
- 3D Printing – used an inkjet-like technique to lay down plastic material instead of ink in multiple layers to gradually build the shape of your part.
Each of the types of prototyping has different pros and cons and some of them are a lot more expensive than others.
At Alphatech we have a great deal of experience at using all of these processes and we know how to design parts to take the maximum advantage of each technique.