Rapid Prototyping: Meaning, Methods, and Benefits (2021)


Just a few years back, architects, draftsmen, and engineers carved complex models painstakingly by hand. These models were created in different shapes and sizes. The use of these models predominantly was in manufacturing, where prototypes are designed as an inherent part of the production work. The whole process used to be very time-consuming and cumbersome, but not anymore.

Today, with rapid prototyping, it has become so much easier and simpler to design and create models and prototypes. Companies providing rapid prototyping services use dimension printing technology. This technology helps in the creation, development, and flawless fabrication of prototypes and models. A VAD-based software guides the fabrication process, which helps in achieving the objective with remarkable ease.

  1. What is Rapid Prototyping?
  2. Types and Techniques of Rapid Prototyping 
  3. Advantages and Disadvantages of Rapid Prototyping
  4. Examples of Rapid Prototyping

1. What is Rapid Prototyping?

The rapid prototype meaning is the fast and agile fabrication of a model, physical part, or assembly with 3D computer-aided design, also referred to as CAD. The creation of a model, part, or assembly is carried out with additive manufacturing, also commonly referred to as 3D printing. Rapid prototyping entails different manufacturing technologies, but most of them use layered additive manufacturing.

Many other technologies are also used for RP, like casting, high-speed machining, extruding, and molding. The most commonly used technology is additive manufacturing used in the RP process besides other conventional processes for creating prototypes. 

2. Types and Techniques of Rapid Prototyping 

Let us discuss a few major rapid prototyping methods and see which of the following can be used for a specific business purpose. 

A) Stereolithography (SLA) or Vat Photopolymerization

It is one of the most affordable and agile rapid prototyping techniques used in commercial 3D printing. It utilizes a photosensitive liquid bath that gets layer-by-layer solidified using ultra-violet light controlled by a computer. 

B) Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

This technique is used for plastic and metal prototyping. It utilizes a powder bed for prototype building. In this technique, layer-by-layer is created with a laser to sinter and heat the powdered material. It is prudent to note that the model’s strength or parts are not as robust as created in the SLA technique. After finishing, the surface of the product is slightly rough and may require reworking to ensure the required finishing. 

C) Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) or Material Jetting

It is a user-friendly and affordable process primarily using non-industrial desktop 3D printers. It comes with a thermoplastic filament spool that is melted in a printing nozzle before the liquid plastic is laid layer-by-layer down as per a computer deposition program. This technique’s initial results were weak and had poor resolution, but this process has made great improvements and is now considered an ideal choice for product development. 

D) Selective Laser Melting (SLM) or Powder Bed Fusion

This technique is also referred to as powder bed fusion, where complex and high-strength parts are manufactured. SLM process is predominantly used in the automotive, aerospace, medical, and defense industries. The process utilizes fine metal powder melted to build production parts or prototypes using an electron beam or a high-powered laser. Aluminum, titanium, cobalt chrome alloys, and stainless steel are some common materials used in the process. 

E) Sheet Lamination or Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) 

It is another cost-effective RP process but slightly less sophisticated and refined than SLS or SLM. There is no need to ensure especially controlled conditions in this process. A series of tin laminates is build up that are accurately cut with a fine cutting device or laser beams creating the CAD pattern design. Every layer is bonded on top of each other until the part is completed. 

F) Digital Light Processing (DLP)

This process similar to the SLA process where resins polymerization is used and cured with a more conventional light source. It is far cheaper and faster than SLA but uses post-build curing and support structures. 

3. Advantages and Disadvantages of Rapid Prototyping

A) There are many advantages of rapid prototyping. Here are a few that deserve attention. 

  • This technique helps a manufacturer or a product development expert get a complete picture of how the product will look after it is ready. It also explains how it will perform in the initial stages of the manufacturing and design cycle. 
  • The process also helps the product designer identify issues in the product or areas of improvement that can be implemented later. Depending on the method or process used, it can take somewhere around a few days to a few months. 
  • RP is a cost-effective way to make models or prototype products using an automated process. Thus, it requires less staff and efforts to operate. It is a very precise and to-the-point process where CAS is used to bring material wastage to a minimum. 
  • It helps designers develop new and latest product ideas to be presented and get approved by clients, board members, and investors. Looking at a model or prototype makes things easier to understand. 
  • This visualization process helps designers get quick feedback on their product based on their physical features rather than a concept. 
  • It is an iterative process that helps designers to incorporate client requirements incorporated into cost-effective designs. 
  • The ability to explore a product increases substantially.
  • It gives a chance to refine the concept and remove any shortcomings or issues.

B) Disadvantages of Rapid Prototyping

There are a few disadvantages of rapid prototyping that need to be taken into consideration. 

  • Lack of accuracy.
  • Problems in matching strength and surface finish
  • Additional initial costs
  • Some rapid prototyping processes are not economical
  • Requires skilled labor to create a perfect model as per design
  • Limited range of materials that can be used
  • It may also result in insufficient analysis

4. Examples of Rapid Prototyping

Some of the best rapid prototyping examples are-

  • Paper prototyping uses pen and paper. It is very easy and flexible, and anything can be drawn with the utmost ease. 
  • Kitchen Stories-It is a mobile app with an interactive prototype. It helps users to look for delicious recipes by checking out the impressive and beautiful pictures.
  • Sketch is an example of high-fidelity prototyping. It helps in opening original files and creating a website.


With advancements in technology, it is high time to embrace the latest in manufacturing, rapid prototyping to save time, cost, and efforts that go into designing a product.

Interested to learn all about Product Management from the best minds in the industry? Check out our Product Management Course. This 6-month-long program takes place online through live instructor-led sessions. It is the only program in India that offers the ‘Bring Your Own Product (BYOP)’ feature so that learners can build their product idea into a full-blown product, and go through an entire Product Development lifecycle. Not only this, but this is the only program in India with a curriculum that conforms to the 5i Framework. Post completion, learners receive a joint certification from the Indian Institute of Management, Indore, and Jigsaw Academy.


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