Rapid prototyping or freeform fabrication (FFF) is a technique used for the quick and easy manufacture of models and prototypes. The technique uses a kind of printer that creates a physical model layer by layer from a three-dimensional CAD model. Rapid prototyping is an important part of the design process and offers flexibility and cost-efficiency in producing single copies of complex models.
There are also a number of other techniques available for use, depending on the desired properties. The most common of these are SLA, SLS, and FDM.
SLA involves hardening a layer of thermosetting plastic, layer by layer, using a laser. This is a fast process that produces a smooth surface. Thanks to SLA's capability of producing finely detailed products, we can manufacture design prototypes and high-resolution components for testing in both hard and medium-hard materials.
SLS is similar to SLA, although in this case, instead of a liquid, a thin layer of thermoplastic powder is melted on in layers. SLS creates strong and durable test parts. With its current rate of production, this technique may also be suitable for the serial production of small batch sizes.
FDM builds up layer upon layer of thin strands of thermoplastic. The result is a durable product with a somewhat reduced surface quality. FMD produces mechanical prototypes in hard thermoplastics like ABS and PC, and is suitable for testing and functionality control, as well as serial production.
The finished product emerges with any remaining support material, which is then removed (does not apply to SLS). If the part is to be varnished, it will often need to be sanded and polished first.
Do you quickly need to produce a model to present your design? Do you want to start your marketing campaign before your product is finished? Do you need design models test design and application? Do you need low volumes in order to test your market? Contact us.