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3D Printing Vs. Rapid Prototyping: Which Is Better?

With industries and manufacturers always looking to up their production game, reducing costs, and increasing efficiency, newer and better manufacturing processes are quickly taking over.

Traditional production and development methods are pushed aside by techniques like 3D printing and rapid prototyping.

In this blog, we’ll help you understand the gist of these processes and their differences to make an informed decision for your next project or product.

What is 3D printing?

Introduced in the 1980s, 3D printing has become the most popular and widely used technique by those in the manufacturing industry. In recent years, innovators and hobbyists have also adopted the method to bring their designs and ideas to life.

The method utilizes a vast range of technologies, equipment, and processes. From some of the very inexpensive equipment to multi-million-dollar professional-grade machinery and printers, 3D printing allows all its users to develop products and prototypes. Its versatility allows it to remain the most popular production application in the industry.

Various materials and technologies such as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Stereolithography (SLA) have increased the range, speed, and capacity offered by 3D printing technology.

What is rapid prototyping?

Where 3D printing is a production process on its own, rapid prototyping encompasses several different techniques and technologies such as CNC machining, injection molding, and 3D printing.

Even though the name might suggest a speedy process, reality may be different for most newcomers. Printing or creating a three-dimensional prototype can take days which in contrast is much quicker than traditional methods.

Some of the main factors selling the technology are the ability to digitally develop designs, make changes, test products before committing to a full-fledged production and enhance the development before its launch.

What is the difference between them?

Even though 3D printing is part of the rapid prototyping process, there are some differences in the technologies. 3D printing is significantly cheaper as it only requires installing and maintaining a printer, while rapid prototyping requires additional labor, system maintenances, and molds to work effectively.

Furthermore, 3D printing requires minimal training allowing you to create designs on CAD software. You can create complex and intricate designs with both technologies but rapid prototyping complex parameters that are not simple to adjust.

When comparing their level of design accuracy, rapid prototyping takes the cake. It utilizes advanced specific parts and technology that enhance its production accuracy.

Lastly, even though 3D printing provides a wide range of materials options for your project needs, they still lack compared to rapid prototyping. 3D printing is mainly limited to plastic and PVC materials.

3D printed objects next to a laptop and printer

Which method is better for you?

Depending on your resources, needs, and type of project, both these technologies could be a viable asset to your business and production process. They both bring in great opportunities and allow you to explore complex designs and gain a competitive advantage in the industry.

If you’re looking to reap the benefits of engineering design for your business and enhance your production process, reach out to us!

At Connekt, LLC, we offer engineering design services such as 3D printing, rapid prototyping, and much more. We believe engineering design is a collaborative process and strive to adequately communicate with our clients to deliver the best possible solutions and products for your needs.

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