What is Rapid Prototyping?

Copyright 2008 by Wohlers Associates, Inc

Rapid prototyping is one of the most popular applications of additive manufacturing (AM), a technology used for building physical models and prototype parts from 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and medical scan data. Unlike CNC machines tools, which are subtractive in nature, AM systems join together liquid, powder, and sheet materials to form complex parts. Layer by layer, they fabricate plastic, wood,  ceramic, and metal objects based on thin horizontal cross sections taken from a computer model.
 

Photo of FDM Titan machine, courtesy of Stratasys

Around the world, AM is changing the way organizations design and manufacture products. When used correctly, it can save impressive amounts of time and money. Companies maintain that additive processes have helped them trim weeks and even months of design and prototyping time, while enhancing the quality of their products. Bringing a product to market weeks or months before your competitors can mean the difference between success and failure, so companies that choose to apply AM can compete more effectively.

Terminology and Definitions