Simply put, a rapid prototyping process is a procedure or method wherein a design is tested during the early parts of its development.
This type has been proven to be more useful in projects that involve large-scale designs. From the name, rapid prototyping involves quickly constructing a scale down model of large objects through the aid of computerized three dimensional images.
These virtual designs are broken into parts or cross sections which identically represents the actual object. When building the prototype, a machine will read the information from the computer and would construct the images segment by segment until the whole prototype has been created.
Depending on the type of the machines and the models size, constructing a prototype using the rapid prototyping process may take from 3 to more than 70 hours. Others even take months to complete.
Usually CAD is used to construct the virtual model which later on is converted to the STL file format. A rapid prototype machine then processes the .STL file and creates layers of the model.
Layer upon layer, the segments are piled on top of each other until the model is created. These layers are glued together by using lasers. These layers are made of either liquid or powdered materials.
Afterwards, when all the layers have been laid down, the superstructure of the model is removed revealing the unpolished surfaces of the prototype. The prototype model is then cleaned.
A lot of companies prefer using rapid prototyping because it offers the best benefits to them. Using rapid prototyping processes increase effective communication, decrease development time, reduce the prevalence of costly mistakes, lessen any sustaining engineering changes, and help extends product life through the addition of essential features and remove unneeded features during the early developments of the design.
By allowing engineers, manufacturers and even the marketing and purchasing people take a look at the product during the onset of its development they can identify and correct mistakes while it is still cheaper to do so.
Among the types of rapid prototyping processes include stereolithography, selective laser sinthering, laminated object manufacturing, solid ground curing and rapid tooling. The standard interface between CAD software and rapid prototyping machines is the STL file format.
MacroMind Director (MMD) is another type of prototyping tool which combines a text, graphics, animation as well as music and other sound, and video. This type of tool has been used more commonly in film, engineering, education and business industries. Most of the output is simulations, visualizations and presentations.