2. Types of Rapid Prototyping Techniques
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printing is an AM technique. It exploits a high-power laser to heat up and sinter particles of polymer powder in solid material. In such a manner, SLS 3D printers create durable models based on CAD files.
The process typically consists of the following stages:
- Dispersing thin layers of materials on a platform and preheating them to nearly the melting point.
- Scanning the cross-section of a 3D model and sintering material at the same time to create a solid structure.
- Cooling down the build chamber in which a component was printed.
- Removing the finished parts from the build chamber and cleaning.
SLS 3D printing is one of the traditional methods of AM rapid prototyping. It can produce comparatively durable and functional parts. Unfortunately, the surface quality is low, and fabricated parts always require extra finishing.
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Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing AM technique. You may have heard of it as material jetting. It is the most common and affordable rapid prototyping method. Non-industrial 3D printers usually employ FDM.
The basis of the technique is melting the thermoplastic filament and laying it down layer-by-layer by a CAD file.
Such deposition technology enables the creation of rather weak parts out of a limited choice of materials. However, it is still widely used by non-experts, something in the conditions of office premises, to take a quick look at a future design.
Stereolithography (SLA) or Vat Photopolymerisation is another 3D printing AM technique. The principle of the technology is the use of a photosensitive liquid that is solidified by computer-controlled ultraviolet (UV) light.
Stereolithography is highly popular as an industrial 3D printing technology. That is why you may typically be offered it as a rapid prototyping method.
In contrast to other AM prototyping, SLA is compatible with a range of materials with different properties and is highly accurate. You typically do not need to add an extra finish to SLA printed parts, but it is advised that you do not expose them to UV light any further to prevent disruption.
Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) is also a 3D printing MA technique. It employs functional nylon for the fast production of test samples.
The basis of the technology is applying fusing and detailing agents on a bed of nylon powder. And then, these added agents are fused by heating elements, thus forming a solid layer. Then, the powder is added to the top of the bed, and the process is repeated to completion.
You can receive durable prototypes with enhanced mechanical properties and with a high-quality surface with MJF.
Binder Jetting lets you produce many parts simultaneously. The way it works is the use of a powder bed, again, on which droplets of a liquid are sprayed. This liquid bonds the powder particles together, forming layers. Then, a raw component is oven-baked and fused.
You can pick out many materials using binder jetting. Also, it is a common industrial manufacturing method. So if you prototyped your innovative component with it, parts can be tested as per quality assurance standards.
Binder jetting is known for high production speed, but it is a comparatively expensive technique.
Injection molding is an interesting MA technique, mostly intended for the mass production of plastic components. It also can be advised to implement rapid prototyping, but only if large-scale injection molding manufacturing is intended further. Overwise, the method would not be cost-effective.
Injection molding is melting materials, injecting them into a mold, solidifying them, and cooling them. Only comparatively simple designs can be obtained using this method. However, fabricated components are durable and have acceptable surface quality.
The first SM technique in this list is Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machining. It is a widely spread industrial manufacturing method needed to fabricate components of nearly any design from almost any material.
The basis of this method is the use of automated CNC machines like lathes, mills, routers, etc., to cut material out of a workpiece. As a result, intricate design and high accuracy can be achieved.
CNC machining is considered the most versatile rapid prototyping method in this list. It has almost no limitations, but costs and proficiency of labor exploiting CNC machines.
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Metal fabrication may be a particular instance of CNC machining, as both are SM methods that you can apply to metal. But, metal fabrication techniques include three other methods but CNC manufacturing.
- Metal casting prototyping.
- Metal extrusion prototyping.
- Sheet metal prototyping.
Each of these methods has its unique pros and cons. For more information, read out the detailed metal fabrication guide. But still, they are superior to 3D printing MA rapid prototyping techniques at least in the durability and mechanical properties of parts fabricated.