A rapid prototype machine is a 3d printer that makes a physical functioning prototype or parts of your invention.
The process is known as additive manufacturing because rapid prototyping can produce a product from computer designs, or modeling software, that look like they've been manufactured.
A digital model is downloaded to a rapid prototype machine or is created on the 3d printer itself.
The 3d printer then forms multiple layers of material (liquid, powder, film) to sculpt your model. See the video below for a demonstration.
The built-up of layers can create any shape to form your prototype. Various 3d printers create the layers differently. Some materials are melted, others are fused, cured or laminated together.
To utilize rapid prototyping you'll require three-dimensional digital drawings of your invention.
Rapid prototyping is fast compared to other methods of creating a model of your invention. Depending upon the complexity and size of your invention you can create a prototype in a matter of hours or several days.
It's not only fast but less expensive for producing small quantities. You can use a 3d printer for creating parts of your invention for testing a design feature or function.
In this way, you can often identify problematic areas of your design and work to solve it before building a full model of your invention.
Similar to ink printers, the cost of 3d printers has steadily declined and the technology has become so advanced that it's being used in practically every industry to create every conceivable product.
Inventions that require testing for structural durability or air flow such as an airplane, car or bridge can be tested as computer models and then rapid prototypes of parts can be made for further testing.
For example, a friend of mine invented a new design for an airplane wing. He tested the design on a computer model and then created a rapid prototype of a scaled-down version of the wing.
The downsized part was only about a meter long (3 ft.) but he used it in a small wind tunnel for testing. This allowed him to prove his principle concept for the aerodynamic benefits of his invention.
Graphic Credits: Zcorp, Svilen
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