Additive manufacturing is a group of technologies that can be used to develop three-dimensional objects. This is typically done by compiling layers on top of each other of a specific material, such as plastic, metal, or concrete. Additive manufacturing techniques are used to produce rapid prototyping, a three-dimensional model of a computer-generated object that can be tested, usually for the release of a product. While there are many techniques used in additive manufacturing, only certain ones are successful for rapid prototyping and some are better than others. Here are three of the best additive manufacturing rapid prototyping techniques for a product.
A great deal of research and testing has been put into three-dimensional printing so that companies could produce the design of products to test prior to manufacturing. The first successful technique used for three-dimensional printing was called stereolithography, in which a computer controls a UV light that solidifies a photosensitive liquid layer by layer. The layers are controlled by a software file format called .stl, which has since become the most commonly used computer language for developing three-dimensional objects. The popularity of this file format is that it is fast, inexpensive, and the product is strong.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
Three-dimensional models made with selective laser sintering are done by fusing a bed of powder. The objects are created layer by layer by using a laser to sinter the powdered layers on top of each other. One of the advantages of using SLS is the fact that you can create either plastic or metal prototypes and create complicated geometries that would be very difficult to replicate using other methods.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
While some additive manufacturing techniques are more complicated and, therefore, more popular with larger companies, fused deposition modeling is an easy and inexpensive method, making it a great option for home and small shop use. With this technique, each layer of the model is carefully laid down by a printing nozzle that is filled with melted plastic filament. Similar to other methods, the process is controlled by a .stl program. Two primary advantages of this method is that you have the ability to use a variety of types and colors of plastic and it is so safe that it can be used by children, allowing it to be used in classrooms.
When a product is being developed, a three-dimensional model is often printed to test the product. There are many additive manufacturing rapid prototyping techniques that can be used for this process, but these three are some of the most popular, inexpensive, and successful.