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Rapid Prototyping in 3D Printing: What You Need to Know

Rapid Prototyping in 3D Printing: What You Need to Know

Rapid prototyping with 3D printing is revolutionizing how products are designed and produced. This rapid, additive manufacturing process has enabled companies to produce prototypes of their designs for testing or production, eliminating costly delays and errors associated with traditional methods.

Rapid prototyping allows designers to create prototypes in hours instead of days or weeks. 3D printing technology from companies like Markforged and HP allows users to print complex parts faster than ever, making it easier for teams to bring new products to market on time and within budget. In this article, we’ll explore rapid prototyping with 3D printing in more detail, including how it works and its relationship to additive manufacturing.

What is rapid prototyping?

In manufacturing, prototyping involves creating a scaled version of the final product to undergo testing, evaluate design performance, and make changes as needed. This practice enables manufacturers to validate the product’s design before launching it into production.

Prototyping can also be used in the development of products with elements that are technically complicated to manufacture, such as electronics. This process allows manufacturers to test and refine ideas quickly and inexpensively during the pre-production phase, leading to fewer mistakes and greater efficiencies when manufacturing begins. Prototyping is an invaluable tool for improving product designs and ensuring their success in the market.

Rapid prototyping in manufacturing is the rapid creation of a scaled version of the final product to undergo testing and evaluate design performance. This rapid, additive manufacturing process enables companies to produce prototypes quickly for testing and production, eliminating costly delays and errors associated with traditional methods. Rapid prototyping allows designers to create a 3d printing prototype in hours instead of days or weeks. This rapid process is enabled by 3D printing technology from companies like Markforged, which allows users to print complex parts faster than ever before.

Before the introduction of rapid prototyping and commercial 3D printing, engineers were limited to mockups made out of foam and clay models crafted by experienced artisan modelers. This traditional approach was much slower, resulting in longer lead times and higher fabrication costs for each prototype part.

This meant that while a working design could eventually be achieved, it often came at the cost of fewer iterations due to time and expense constraints. Thankfully, through innovations such as rapid prototyping and 3D printing, these barriers have been hugely mitigated, allowing for the faster creation of prototypes at drastically decreased cost points.

How does rapid prototyping work?

Rapid prototyping, or 3D printing, is a type of additive manufacturing. In this process, layers of material are added one on top of the other until the entire 3D object is created. This layer-by-layer approach enables users to create complex parts and components that would be difficult to create with traditional manufacturing techniques.

The 3D printing process starts with a 3D computer-aided design (3D CAD) model of the object to be printed. Once the CAD model is designed, it is converted into a language called STL that a 3D printer can interpret. The 3D printer then prints the object layer by layer, using materials like thermoplastics and metal powders.

As each layer is printed, the printer uses ultraviolet light to harden it, creating a single solid object. This process allows users to quickly create objects with complex geometries that traditional manufacturing could not achieve.

part model in Markforged Eiger - Rapid Prototyping

Benefits of rapid prototyping for manufacturers

Faster creation of prototypes: Rapid prototyping enables manufacturers to quickly create scaled versions of their products for testing and production, eliminating costly delays associated with traditional methods.

Improved product designs: By creating a prototype that can be tested on-site and in real-time, manufacturers can improve the design before committing resources to mass production. This results in fewer mistakes, greater efficiencies, and improved customer satisfaction when launching a new product or service into the market.

Cost savings: The speed at which 3D printing allows users to create complex parts eliminates many costs associated with traditional manufacturing methods, such as tooling and mold development expenses.

Increased iteration potential: With rapid prototyping enabled by 3D printing technology, companies have access to unlimited iterations during the pre-production phase – resulting in better overall design performance once mass production begins.

Accurate representation of final product: Since 3D printed parts are made from actual materials used for mass production (such as thermoplastics or metal powders), they provide an accurate representation of what the final product will look like upon completion – reducing the risk associated with unknown fabrication techniques or processes.

What to consider for rapid prototyping

There are two critical things to consider when exploring rapid prototyping:


Countless users prefer to create prototypes with cost-effective materials that maximize their budget and amplify results. By bypassing expensive prototypes with demanding mechanical properties, this cost-saving measure allows you to invest funds elsewhere.

For 3D printers with increased production abilities, higher-performance materials should be saved for applications that demand great strength — such as snowboard binding prototypes — or printing the ultimate and approved parts.

3D printing with modern plastics makes producing prototypes for metal parts faster and more cost-effective.

PLA, or Polylactic acid, is a budget-friendly thermoplastic with an easy printing process that makes it ideal for 3D prototyping. Not only is PLA one of the most cost-effective materials, but its low-melting point also allows even beginners to achieve successful prints.

Type of Printer

It’s important to select the appropriate printer for the desired application. Companies should consider several aspects when selecting a 3D printer, including the speed of its printing process, dependability, longevity, supported materials and build sizes, and how user-friendly it is.

With a vast range of 3D printers that can create low-quality prototypes, organizations should opt for those with the potential to construct high-quality end products. This way, time and money can be saved in the long run.

Opting for a cheaper machine that only prints PLA may appear to be an easy and cost-effective rapid prototyping solution. Nevertheless, settling on a printer with low dependability can delay design cycles and negate any benefits gained from the money saved.

Get started with rapid prototyping today

Rapid prototyping is gaining ground in the product design process as organizations look to respond quickly to customer needs and create the best possible product. Rapid prototyping cuts the time it takes to build a prototype from weeks to days, making it a huge time-saver. It has many benefits, such as cost savings through reduced reliance on injection molding, increased iteration potential due to faster creation of prototypes, improved product designs through accurate representation of the final product, and more.

Organizations must bear in mind that when considering rapid prototyping, they must also consider their choice of materials and printer type – two factors that will determine how agile and effective their rapid prototyping process is.

If your organization is looking for ways to stay ahead of the competition while creating innovative products with time and money savings in mind, you should consider rapid prototyping. Not sure where to start with rapid prototyping? Get in touch with TPM’s 3D printing team today – we can help you craft an effective and agile product design process that uses rapid prototyping as no other company does.