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RP - Rapid Prototyping
The main section for Rapid Prototyping Technologies and R&D - Research & Development

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Rapid prototyping, is the automatic construction of physical objects using solid freeform fabrication. The first techniques for rapid prototyping became available in the 1980s and were used to produce models and prototype parts. Today, they are used for a much wider range of applications and are even used to manufacture production quality parts in relatively small numbers. Some sculptors use the technology to produce complex shapes for fine art exhibitions.

In brief, rapid prototyping takes virtual designs (from computer aided design (CAD) or from animation modeling software, transforms them into cross sections, still virtual, and then create each cross section in physical space, one after the next until the model is finished. It is a WYSIWYG process where the virtual model and the physical model correspond almost identically.

In additive fabrication, the machine reads in data from a CAD drawing, and lays down successive layers of liquid or powdered material, and in this way builds up the model from a long series of cross sections. These layers which correspond to the virtual cross section from the CAD model are glued together or fused (often using a laser) automatically to create the final shape. The primary advantage to additive construction is its ability to create almost any geometry (excluding trapped negative volumes).


The standard interface between CAD software and rapid prototyping machines is the STL file format.

The word "rapid" is relative: construction of a model with contemporary machines typically takes 3 to 72 hours, depending on machine type and model size. Used in micro technologies "rapid" is correct, the products made are ready very fast and the machines can build the parts in parallel.

Advances in technology allow the machine to use multiple materials in the construction of objects. This is important because it can use one material with a high melting point for the finished product, and another material with a low melting point as filler, to separate individual moving parts within the model. After the model is completed, it is heated to the point where the undesired material melts away, and what is left is a functional plastic machine. Although traditional injection molding is still cheaper for manufacturing plastic products, soon rapid prototyping may be used to produce finished goods in a single step.

Due to the high degree of flexibility and adaptability required by many rapid prototyping techniques, these applications typically require the use of robots or similar mechanisms.

However, there are currently several schemes to improve rapid prototype technology to the stage where a prototyper can manufacture its own component parts (see RepRap Project). The idea behind this is that a new machine could be assembled relatively cheaply from raw materials by the owner of an existing one. Such crude 'self-replication' techniques could considerably reduce the cost of prototyping machines in the future, and hence any objects they are capable of manufacturing.



Wikipedia - Rapid Prototypling


Rapid Prototyping is to all intents and purposes the the most common name given to a compound of related technologies that are used to manufacture physical objects directly from data sources of CAD. These methods are only in processes, they add and they unite materials in layers to form objects.

Such systems are also known by the names: addictive production, three-dimensional impression, production of solid free form (SFF - Solid freeform) and production in layers (layered manufacturing). The addictive technologies now offer advantages in a lot of applications compared to methods of production classic subtractive as machining or lathing:

¤ Objects can be formed with any geometric complexity without the need of having elaborated adjustments of machines or final assembly;

¤ Systems of rapid prototyping reduce the construction of complex objects to a manageable process, direct, and relatively rapid.

This resulted in the large employment by engineers as a way to reduce time of manufacture, better to specify and to communicate the product design, and to produce rapid tooling to manufacture those products.

Images Representing Software transforming CAD models in stl files
Training by Virtual Reality - LabGraph©
Images representing stratification by software for standard layers modeling.
LabGraph© files Images de Arquivo - Training by Virtual Reality - Simulation
Virtual image of CNC ultra-rapid
LabGraph© virtual simulation files



Rapid prototyping and small series manufacturing (RP&M) technologies are new technologies to produce one or more pieces of solid part from 3D modeling or CAD software data promptly, independent of the shape complexity.

Different RP technologies have their advantages and disadvantages. Inside Factory of Factories program the general function of prototyping will be described in the product development process, which different activities influence the choose of RP technologies, and comparing the difference of every RP technologies.

This reports focus on the field of product design and development, including rapid prototyping techniques that can be applied to a wide variety of fields, which the most important is manufacturing individual equipments, vehicles or devices.

Rapid Prototyping is not a solution to all problems of production of pieces or parts:

It should be observed that the technology CNC is economical, widely understood and available, offers wide material selection and excellent precision. However, whatever the demand involves producing a part or same object geometry moderately complex, and rapid execution – RP usually has enormous advantages.


Examining extreme cases and determining which of technologies to apply, CNC or RP is relatively simple. For many other less extreme cases the line of crossing selection is hazier, it changes the whole time, and it depends on several pondered weights, factors case-dependent. Even whether the precision of rapid prototyping is not usually perfect as CNC, it is still adapted for an extensive range of applications and precisions requirements.





Various engineering techniques are employed in Rapid Prototyping including CNN Milling, Stereolithography, laser, printing, optical scanning, resin material development, polymer material extrusion and deposition, powder metallurgy, sintering processes, etc.

Rapid prototypes are normally applied for design development or certification, product evaluation, production & process analysis, and manufacture tooling fabrication, resulting significant time saving in product development and enhancing competitive edge of the company.



There are approximately 40 manufacturers all over the world making RP equipment that can be classified into 10 main technology categories (click on subject to see the article):

CNC Milling Technologies

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Inkjet Deposition Methods

Laminated Object Modeling (LOM)

Laser Powder Forming Technologies

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Solid Ground Curing (SGC)

StereoLithography (SL or SLA)

Photopolymer based methods (other than stereolithography)

Three Dimensional Printing (3DP) and related technologies



The range and available properties are growing rapidly. Numerous plastics, ceramic, metals that vary from stainless steel to titanium, and paper wood-type are available. Anyway, numerous secondary processes are available to convert patterns done in a rapid prototyping process into final materials or mould tools.

Geometric freedom - Essentially all the addictive production technologies (addition of materials) provide the ability for production with limitless geometric freedom. It is the most important advantage over the subtractive methods and main reason of their existence. Geometric freedom still understands several limitations of the current technologies.



CNC RP milling machines commanded by special CAM software allows producing Rapid Prototype to Rapid tooling.

CNC Milling Technologies - CNC RP milling machines commanded by special CAM software allows producing Rapid Prototype to Rapid tooling. Computer Numerical Control (CNC) in some aspects is related to a tool or model manufacturing, in which a cutting machine such as a lathe or milling machine is controlled by computer to cut a specified shape, often with many different steps and cutting tool changes. The fabrication process builds the part systematically by cutting material, with a high precision and finishing.

CNC cutting and milling has been in use for a longer period than RP and are relatively common in manufacturing. Driven by CAD data there are ranges of applications for cutting, hole punching, milling, engraving, etc. and a number of different technologies, which are used. The best advantages of CNC are its accuracy and speed.

The accuracy of CNC cutting means that elements can fit high precision and apart from cutting, CNC can be used for milling, drilling, tapping, bending, welding, grinding, etc and many industrial items are fabricated or assembled from components at the end of a CNC process.

Charlyrobot CNC Station ultra-rapid
milling soft materials.
Charlyrobot Site



Laser machining represents a revolution. Before being limited to profiling work where depth of cut was unimportant, depth can now be controlled opening many new opportunities both in the production of components and in tool making. The laser can machine virtually any material and once calibrated, establishing possibilities with ceramics and other previously impossible to machine materials.

Presenting the "tool" diameter of 0.1mm or less, the laser can attain restrict areas and create detail that milling could never reach.
As the "tool" does not wear, providing always-optimal cutting performance even pre-hardened steel or tungsten carbide, is vaporised as the laser traverses the surface. Similar to many RP systems working in layers, except that the layers are down to one micron thick, a cavity or section is created by material removal.

TetraPORT SYstems Metal deposition with wire feeder
See Video
5 Axis Laser Video
Alabama Laser offers specialized laser research and development services



The FDM technology involves heating a filament of thermoplastic polymer unwound from a coil and provides material to an extrusion nozzle. The heated nozzle melts the plastic and flow the melted plastic to be twisted on and off. The nozzle is mounted into a mechanical device, which can be controlled in both horizontal and vertical directions by a computer CAD data file.

The system is sheltered within a compartment, which is held at a temperature just below the plastic melting point. Each layer is formed of extruded plastic deposed by the nozzle moving over the table in the required geometry.

The plastic consolidate instantly after being sprayed from the nozzle and attach to the previous layer.

The machines range from fast concept modellers to slower, high-precision machines.
The materials include polyester, polycarbonate, ABS, elastomers, and investment casting wax.

FDM - See Video from site RTe
Site RTejournal
Forum of Rapid Tecnologies
FDM™ Vantage
Stratasys site link



Metal Spray tooling and electroplating can be used for parts that are to be constructed using plastic production processes, being important resource in Rapid Tooling.

This process applies a zinc/aluminium alloy with an arc spray to a pattern or model. The pattern or model can be a stereolithography part or a model made from wood, composite, plastic or metal. The alloy is sprayed over the pattern to a shell thickness from .060-inches to 0.125-inches as required. As soon ass it hardens into the desired shape and adheres to the pattern, the sprayed metal shell is then reinforced with high-treat aluminium-filled epoxy resin or caster aluminium or low melt metal alloy.

The finished mould can produce parts from virtually any production material, from polypropylene to glass-filled polycarbonate. The longevity of the tool is process dependent. Low-pressure operations such as casting, blow moulding or rim will yield more parts than the higher pressure applications. Turnaround time for producing a sprayed tool from Rapid Prototype Pattern is between ten days to three weeks depending on complexity of the tool.

Types and Quantities of Parts Made:

· Polyurethane 300 to 20,000
· Polyurea 300 to 20,000
· Epoxy 100 to 600
· Investment Wax Patterns 500 to 10,000
· Low Melt Metal Alloys 100 to 1,500
· Polyurethane Foam 2,000 to 20,000
· Silicone Rubber 10,000+
· Injection Moulding 10 to 1,000
· Rim Moulding 1,000 to 15,000
· Blow Moulding 300 to 500
· Vacuum Forming 5,000 to 100,000

TRULASER 3010 - link
Site Trumpf - link



Inkjet Deposition methods utilize a single jet each for a plastic fabricate material and a type of wax as support material, which are held in a melted liquid state in containers.

Jetting heads moving in the axis spray tiny droplets of the materials in the required pattern to form a object layers. The materials solidify rapidly as they are deposited.

Perfactory® click to see
envisiontec site link
Digimatix DMP-2800
Digimatix FujiFilm Site link


Using a photopolymer process based the system uses a wide area inkjet head to layer judicious deposit building both model and support materials.

After each layer a UV flood lamp mounted on the print head subsequently completely support and model material. The support material are removed by washing it away with pressurized water in a consequent operation.


Applying a laser to cut the profiles of the model cross-section on paper, plastics, and meshed or metallic material the system accomplishes a low cost process.

Laminated object manufacturing (LOM) is a rapid prototyping process where a part is built sequentially from layers of paper. A feed roll supplies a tape bonded to the previous layer melting a plastic coating to the bottom side of the paper.Successive layers of heat bonded sheet material form the model using typically paper. A laser system controlled by a sliced CAD data is used to cuts the perimeter of each slice in the sheet material. A heated roller will apply the next sheet layer, and waste material around the slice is left in place to support the next layer of the model.

Applying a laser to cut the profiles of the model cross-section on paper, plastics, and meshed or metallic material the system accomplishes a low cost process. A feed roll supplies a tape bonded to the previous layer melting a plastic coating to the bottom side of the paper.
One of the most important problems of LOM is the process of hot pressing. The purpose of hot pressing is binding the current layer to the built part. The speed of hot pressing must match with the power of heating up. If the of hot-pressing movement is too fast, the binding between layers the layer will not be rigid; while if the movement is too slow, the layer will be over-heated and the hot stress of will affect the shape of object. Another question is focused onto attain the cutting speed and the power of laser beam.

The LOM process is very advantageous in many aspects. First, because the laser beam only cut the outline of shape, this process can decrease process times than other RP. It is the most efficient process in all kinds of RP process. Secondly, the LOM process can manufacture very complicated object. The complicacy of the LOM object is less limited than the FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) object because there is no need of support material in the LOM process; low material cost is also an advantage of this process.

The system has a low cost, and even ceramic and composites were used for the process, but accuracy and stability are not outstanding.


LOM (LLM) click to see video from the site RTe
RT ejournal
Forum for Rapid Technologies


CUBIC SD300 parts
Cubic Technologies Site link

Laser powder molding technologies are obtaining large importance and are a promising technology.

Using a high power laser to melt metal powder feed coaxially to the focus of the laser beam by a deposition head, the laser beam typically moves through the center of the head and is focused to a small spot by the lenses.

The table X-Y moves in raster method to fabricate each layer of the model as the head moves up vertically to complete each layer.


Developed by the MIT institute the process comprises depositing a layer of compressed powder material at the top of a fabrication chamber and a multi-channel head jet subsequently a liquid adhesive in two dimensional patterns that will bond the powder where the liquid is deposed following the shape, and forming each layer of the model.

3D printing is an innovative process, which uses a multi jet modelling head to apply a thermo polymer material in three dimensions. The completed CAD solid model is transferred to a STL data file, ready for the shape process. Parts are produced by the print head consisting of multiple jets that build the model layer by layer. If the part is larger than the head work space, the build platform will reposition within the Y-axis such that the process may continue.

The final model has appearance similar to that produced with Rapid Technologies such as Stereolithography, Laminated Object Manufacture and Laser Sintering, or meaning a stair stepped appearance. Duplicating freeform shapes within discrete layers creates these undesirable effects. Constructing models of thinner layers reduce the stair stepping effect, but thicker layers may still be acceptable within concept modelling.

Most of the models built using the 3D printer method are weak and can easily be damaged and deformed. In this case infiltrating with wax can strengthen these models, and adding ink to the initially transparent wax can produce parts that have a variety of colours.

Support structures are required to hold temporary the part before it is finished. Some types of rapid prints require post-processing, moreover for design reliability or aesthetic appearance. Making the part more attractive for presentational purposes the characteristic post-processing finishing involves sanding or painting.


3D Printing - click to see video righ from the site RTe
RT ejournal
Forum for Rapid Technologies


Spectrum Z® 510


Invision HR 3-D Modeler
3D Systems

Sinterstation® Pro SLS® Systems
3D Systems Site
FDM Vantage

The developed rapid casting mould technique significantly reduces the lead-time of mould making and simplifies the process of metal casting.
The process provides the capability to produce cast metal parts from a CAD file considerably faster and less expensively than traditional prototype casting methods. The process involves printing molds and cores on a 3D Printer directly from digital data, eliminating the pattern and core box production step in the traditional sand casting process. Metal is then poured into the 3D printed molds. The technology allows to prototype parts in metal that were previously cost and time prohibitive.
The whole mould building process is implemented automatically by the DMD system without the pattern fabrication step.
It may be possible to produce ceramic casting molds for metal casting using a layered printing process depositing a liquid binder onto a layer of ceramic powder. After the mold is "printed", it is then fired. These molds will handle any metal and are more accurate than those from sand casting.

Z Printer® 450

The system applies a thermostatic powder over the surface of a cylinder, which moves down to settle the new layer of powder to the model. The tightly compacted powder is melted and bonded by a controlled laser beam.

A layer manufacturing technology in which the layers are formed by using a laser to bond the surface of a layer of powder material in the desired shape. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a free-form fabrication technology developed by the 3D Systems. It is a layered manufacturing method that creates solid, three-dimensional objects by fusing powdered materials with a CO2 laser. A thin layer of powder material is laid down and the laser “draws” on the layer, sintering together the particles hit by the laser. The layer is then downward by a layer thickness and a new layer of powder is placed on top. This process is repeated layer per layer until the part is complete.

The advantages of SLS over Stereolithography (SLA) involve mainly material properties, as SLA process is limited to photosensitive resins that are typically fragile.
A great variety of materials can approximate the properties of thermoplastics such as polycarbonate, nylon, or glass-filled nylon are available for the SLS process. Meanwhile the smoother surface of an SLA part typically wins over SLS when an appearance model is required.

A SLS type machine consists of two powder magazines on each side of the work area. One roller moves powder over from one magazine to the other magazine crossing over the work area. The laser then draws the CAD file out the layer. The work platform moves down one layer by the specific thickness and the roller then moves to the opposite side. The process repeats until the part is finished.

Normally the surface of a SLS part is powdery, due to the base material whose particles are fused together without complete melting.


See Video from the site
RT ejournal
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
RT ejournal
Forum for Rapid Technologies

¤ StereoLithography (SL or SLA)

is a method to build plastic models or parts using a photopolymer liquid in a container where the laser beam will trace the forms and solidify the liquid bonding to the previous surface.

Generally provides the highest accuracy and quality surface of any prototyping technology.

Stereolithography (SLA) is a free form fabrication technology, the first Rapid Prototyping process, was developed in 1986. It is a layered manufacturing method that utilizes a photo-curable liquid resin in combination with an ultraviolet laser. A storage bin of photosensitive resin contains a platform that can moving vertically.

The construction part under is supported by the platform that moves downward by a layer thickness --typically about 0.05 mm to 0.25 inches-- for each layer. When the ultraviolet laser beam hits the liquid it hardens a small amount of resin under the beam point A laser beam “draws” the shape from CAD design of each layer and solidifies the photosensitive resin.
Stereolithography was developed by 3D Systems. Due to its accuracy and surface finish, it has become the most popular of the rapid prototyping methods.

See the video from the Site RTe

RT ejournal
Forum for Rapid Technologies


Viper SLA® Systems
3D Systems Site

¤ Investment Casting
Also known as the lost wax process is one of the oldest manufacturing processes. Complexes shapes can be made with high accuracy. Hard to machine or manufacture metals are indicate for this process. It can be used to make parts that have complex shapes cannot be produced by normal manufacturing techniques, such as turbine blades, parts that have to withstand high temperatures. Using a computer solid model master a wax pattern is made using a stereolithography or similar model prototyping.

Making a pattern using wax or some other material that can be melted away, makes the mould. Dipping a wax pattern in refractory slurry, a skin forms wrapping the wax pattern. As soon as this is dried and the process of dipping in the slurry and drying is repeated until a robust thickness is attained. Following the entire pattern is placed in an oven and the wax is melted away leading to a mould that can be filled with the molten metal. Because the mould is formed around a one-piece pattern, (which does not have to be pulled out from the mould as in a traditional sand casting process, very intricate parts and undercuts can be made.

Materials as Aluminium alloys, Bronzes, tool steels, stainless steels, Stellite, Hastelloys, and precious metals can be cast in the moulds. Due to close tolerances that can be achieved parts made with investment castings often do not require any further machining.


ZPrinter® 450
ZCorporation Site



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