Rapid Prototyping vs Additive Manufacturing

Rapid Prototyping vs Additive manufacturing
What is the difference between rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

What is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is the creation of an object based on a computer model developed in three-dimensional modeling (CAD) program. As a rule, rapid prototyping is carried out using additive technologies (3D printing). Although, at the same time, CNC machining and laser cutting are also widely used. Each specific task is optimally suited to its own tool. For modern engineering, the prompt creation of objects is extremely important, since it allows you to quickly introduce innovative ideas and technologies into production.

Rapid prototyping technologies:

  • Stereolithography (STL)
  • Mask stereolithography (SGC)
  • Fused deposition (FDM)
  • Stratified spray (BPM)
  • Laser sintering (SLS)
  • Gluing growing (LOM)
  • Stratified spraying with multi-jet heads (MJM)

In other words, the emphasis is on the rapid creation of a prototype or base model, on the basis of which more accurate models could be developed in the future and ultimately obtain the final product.

Advantages of Rapid Prototyping

The key concept here is FAST – this is usually achieved in a step-by-step synthesis (production) of a product of any geometry. Rapid prototyping is a term that is a set of techniques (technologies) that allow you to create three-dimensional products in a single technological process according to computer models.

 General Benefits

  1. Reducing the time to create a prototype of a product and itself from a month to weeks and days
  2. A real tangible model of a future product is easier to design and present to customers
  3. The physical model is easier to correct, errors are possible in the graphical representation of the product
  4. Decrease in the cost of tooling and the cost of design iterations
  5. The cost of product prototypes is lower than with traditional methods

What is Additive Manufacturing?

The technologies discussed in this article began to evolve less than 40 years ago. During this time, they went through several stages; almost each was accompanied by the emergence of new technological processes and, accordingly, the emergence of new terms and definitions, which partially or even completely duplicated each other. Here is a partial list.

Additive manufacturing is usually also referred to as 3D manufacturing or generative manufacturing is becoming increasingly important in the industry. These manufacturing processes are used in particular in prototype construction, for components with a high degree of customization or components with complicated geometry. But the extent to which additive manufacturing is used is also growing in the manufacture of end products.

Basics of Additive Manufacturing Process

In additive manufacturing processes, a component is created by adding material. A special feature of the generative manufacturing process is that the manufacturing process takes place without tools and without injection molding directly on the basis of 3D CAD data. Compared to conventional manufacturing processes, this increases manufacturing flexibility.

Different materials can be processed with different additive manufacturing processes – such as plastics, synthetic resins, ceramics, and metals.

Working Principle of Additive Manufacturing work

 In additive manufacturing technology, a component is created using a 3D CAD file. There are processes in which the component to be produced is manufactured directly in all three spatial directions. As a rule, however, production takes place in layers by first producing one level of the component.

The three-dimensional component is created by adding further layers in the third spatial direction. Melting or chemical hardening processes create cohesion of the material before the next layer is applied.

Materials for 3D Printing

Since the 1980s, scientists are working on a faster turnaround of products. For this purpose, they have undergone rigorous proves of material testing in 3D printing. Simultaneously, manufacturers all over the world are looking for improvements in both materials and end-product performance.

List of 3D print Materials

The 3D printing material can be classified into the following 4 main groups.

1. Common materials

  • ABS
  • PLA

2. Plastics for engineering and industry

  • Nylon
  • PC-ABS
  • PSU

3. Resins

  • Thermic lytic resins
  • Photosensitive resins
  • Epoxy Resins
  • Rubber materials

4. Metallic Materials

  • Stainless metal materials
  • Aluminum
  • Titanium Alloy
  • Copper
  • Precious metals

A huge variety of materials makes it possible to use 3D printers not only for prototyping but also for the production of small series or one-off items

Prototyping: 3D Printing vs Traditional Methods

Before the arrival of modern rapid manufacturing technologies such as 3d printing, selective laser sintering, etc, the rapid prototype industry was mainly dependent on CNC machines and rapid tooling. Although the metal parts developed by additive fabrication techniques such as 3d printing technology have lower mechanical properties when compared to subtractive prototyping, the speed at which prototyping is done has significantly improved.

  • Significant time savings: 3D printing of a prototype will take from several hours to several days; in traditional production, this process can take up to six months or more (milling, stamping, casting, etc.).
  • Design freedom: virtually no geometry constraints.
  • The ability to print solid models, eliminating the need for assembly.
  • The ability to quickly make structural changes to a 3D model at any stage of the project.
  • Savings on warehouse logistics and human resources due to the lack of equipment.

Both kinds of prototypes can be printed quickly and economically with a 3D printer. 3D printing helps to quickly get a prototype from the original product or from a CAD model. Precision printing ensures products match CAD data as closely as possible, resulting in high-quality prints.

At the same time, special equipment and intermediate stages of processing are not required, therefore, as a rule; it takes only a few hours to create a finished object.

The Benefits of Additive Manufacturing

Many experts consider AM technology to be a revolution in product design and manufacturing.

The speed advantage is not only related to the time it takes to create parts. The acceleration of the entire process of creating a product is possible thanks to the widespread use of computers.

Since the technology uses 3D CAD as a starting point and the transfer of design documentation to the AP is smooth, there is no need to worry about data transformation or interpretation of design goals.

The continuity and integrity of the entire process can also be considered in terms of reducing technological operations. Regardless of the complexity of the parts, their production inside the AP machine is usually carried out in one stage.

Additive Manufacturing is better than Traditional Manufacturing Methods

Most traditional manufacturing processes would require multiple steps and iterations. The more complex your product design (construction) is, the more the number of stages for its production increases. Even a relatively simple design change can lead to a significant increase in subtractive manufacturing times with conventional methods.

Therefore, additive technology can be considered as a method in which it is very effective to predict the time spent on manufacturing a product, regardless of what changes may be introduced in the early stages of product development.

Manual Machining is Complex

Manual machining and the like operations are quite complex. Casting is a messy process and requires making molds. CNC machining requires adequate skills and professionalism; it is also necessary to install equipment before turning the part. Of course, it is initially assumed that the master has mastered all these technologies and that he has the tools necessary for making the part at hand.

Manufacturing processes incorporating additive process technologies are much cleaner, more rational, and versatile than traditional mechanical engineering technologies.


Time is the best resource of any modern enterprise. Rapid prototyping using 3D printing will help save time for prototyping and evaluating a physical model of a product, shorten the development process, and take advantage of changes in the market to acquire customers.

The wide possibilities of additive technologies and a large selection of equipment allow you to find the right solution for a wide variety of applications and get highly accurate and durable models in the shortest possible time.