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16. Rapid Prototyping Technology

Products have been designed and manufactured much faster than 20 years ago and everyone is on a rush to put their products on market. That's when a rapid prototype machine comes handy. All prototypes are either machined or modeled by hand before the rapid prototype machines and it would take one or two week to get a prototype part for evaluation .

There is more than one way to skin a cat. Different processes have being used to get parts done but still it's all about the same principle, get a 3d cad computer model and slice it into thin layers then build a part from those layers. I think that the first one to use this process was Stereolithography it uses a resin that hardens with a laser beam to build the parts layer by layer and it's called "Sl process" still the best process to make accurate parts. Another old processes is called "LOM" laminated object manufacture , it cuts the slice contour layers from paper or wood laminate then glue it together to form the parts. The new ones are "FDM" Fused deposition modeling, "3d printing"the name says it all, "SLS" selective laser sintering, and the list goes on.

FDM melts a thin abs rod and build the parts layer by layer . It's the machine to get if you want a fully functional part but resolution is not the best one, layer thickness is about 0.25mm.
3Dp gets you one of the best looking parts and it print in colors but parts are not strong as the the ones made by FDM. One could infiltrade the 3dp parts with epoxy but I've no idea how strong it gets.

SLS selective sinteres a nylon like powder to bond the particles together and parts are strong.
This are the processes I'm familiar with , there is a lot more processes out there like 3d printing using UV resins, a 3d printer that uses metal powder, 3d printing using wax and many others.The build material to use on this machines is not cheap it goes from 100 to 300 dollars per kilo and some of this machines uses a support material to build the parts taking the cost of build material even higher. It's like when you buy a new cheap desktop printer you pay something like 100 dollars for it and pay 80 dollars for a new cartridge when it runs out of the ink. Rapid prototyping machines are very expensive anything from 10.000 usd to half million add to that the build material cost and replacement parts and it turns into a very expensive printer to buy.

One thing that prevents it from getting out of the industry and into the every day home use is the 3d modeling cad software not easy to learn to use.

What's my intention then? Since I've made the printer the next step is to try new affordable build materials. Some that I still need to try is microcellulose, PVP, PVA, carbon fiber, ceramics and steel powder. maltodextrin and gypsum is cheap enough to keep using it and I'll add some PVA to it as it might increase green parts strength and controll how the ink absorbs into the powder layer.

Almost forgot to mention that I need to add a cover to my 3d printer as dust gets every where and into my nose and lungs, another thing is that some play on the printer's shaft is showing up I'll need to replace the cartridge bearings with a bearing that can run on a dust enviroment such as the ones IGUS have, anyway I think I has gone thru 5 thousand layers and 5 cartridges since I've started to work on this project and some of the cartridge was damage by trying some water based glue on it , besides that it's working very well.

Here are some samples we have done before, please kindly take a look:

Product design

Product design
Rapid prototyping

rapid prototyping

Plastic molds
Custom molds

Electronic product
design samples

rapid prototype

Plastic molds
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