Rapid Prototyping can involve concept prototypes and functional prototypes. In fact, many projects involve both as after the initial approval of the concept prototype further development requires the need for a prototype that effectively replicates the functions of the finished product. This is functional rapid prototyping.
In fact this aspect is one of the reasons why rapid prototyping is increasingly being used to develop, test and refine many components, parts and products. Rapid prototyping makes it easier to check the design, fit, function, and manufacturability before investing in expensive tooling and moving into production, when the time and cost to make changes becomes increasingly prohibitive.
With the increasing range of processes used to create such prototypes, replicating the ‘real lfe’ functions of the product is increasingly achievable. Such processes include 3D printing, vacuum forming, and CNC machining offer increasingly detailed levels of manufacturing with an ability to manufacture items with almost unlimited design features even at prototyping stage helping the finished prototype accurately replicate the finished product in all aspects without the need for expensive tooling or set up costs.
Benefits of Functional Rapid Prototyping
Advanced materials can closely match the look, feel, and material characteristics of parts produced with traditional manufacturing processes such as injection moulding. Materials can simulate parts with fine details and textures, smooth and low-friction surfaces, rigid and robust housings, or soft-touch and clear components. Manufactured parts can then be finished with secondary processes like machining, polishing and printing to replicate any visual attribute of a final part, as well as machined to create assemblies from multiple parts and materials.
Plastic components for industrial and automotive sectors require extensive functional testing to see how a part or assembly will function when subjected to stresses and conditions of in-field use. High-performance prototypes can withstand thermal, chemical, and mechanical stress. The technology also provides an efficient solution for creating custom test fixtures to simplify functional testing and certification by gathering consistent data.