What is rapid prototyping – Methods and pros and cons?

Rapid prototyping is a technology that not only helps manufacturers save costs but also shortens the research and development process. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of rapid prototyping technology that are chosen by so many people? To better understand this technology, let’s explore it with us in the article below.

What is rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is the process of prototyping a product that enables a manufacturer to evaluate the sensory/functionality of a new product design before mass production and market release. Rapid prototyping has the nature of “trial” production with single units, completely different from mass production.

Rapid prototyping technology appeared on the market in the mid-80s, this technology has the following outstanding features:

Short fabrication time.
Used to test prototype products made with specific technologies such as CNC machining, clay modeling, 3D printing… The manufacturing method is completely different from mass production.
Effective support for product research and development.

Rapid prototyping with CNC machines

CNC is a machining method for prototyping purposes that require high precision and sophistication, but the cost is also very high and the machining time is also quite long. There are many forms of CNC such as laser cutting, milling, turning, punching, and abrasive beam cutting…

Comparison of 3D printing rapid prototyping methods

The advent of 3D printers is an extremely effective tool for rapid prototyping. Many people, when it comes to rapid prototyping, immediately think of 3D printing.

3D printing uses material layer-by-layer accretion to be as precise as a 3D CAD model with the help of 3D printing machines and software. The process is performed from the design data and then converted to STL format with triangular meshes.

Next, the 3D printer and specialized software will divide and cut the STL design into layers. The 3D printer will read each of these printing layers to operate, producing in an “additive” fashion on the finished product.

Currently, there are many 3D printing methods that users can apply depending on the requirements for the printed sample such as accuracy, material properties, color, and quality of printed samples, cost, and intended use. … Here are the common 3D printing methods:

SLA. Method

The SLA method allows the creation of prints from light-catching liquid resin materials. When the laser is shined on a cross-section, the liquid resin solidifies into a printed layer. Next, the printing tank containing the liquid plastic material will be lowered/raised by one step according to the preset layer thickness and continuously until the pattern is formed.

SGC. method

This is one of the layer-by-layer drying methods, unlike the SLA method; SGC does not use a laser but uses a beam of ultraviolet light that shines on the entire surface of the object through a masking layer. The exposed material will now harden to form a layer. In this process, the mask is considered as a negative filter of the section that has been cut.

LOM. method

LOM is a method of using sheet-shaped materials covered with glue, this material is mainly paper, but sometimes users can also use metal sheets or plastic sheets to replace… Each layer of the cross-section can be cut. generated from the laser source, the sheet of material will be cut along the contours of the object sections. Thanks to the heating roller system, the cross-sectional layers are glued on top of each other in turn.

SLS. method

The SLS method uses a laser to sinter the powder. The laser source will shine on the printing table covered with a layer of material powder, the material particles will stick together to form a layer. At the end of a printing layer, the print bed will move down to create a new print layer, overlapping the previously finished printing layer.

FDM. method

FDM 3D printing method uses filamentous materials, such as PLA, ABS. With this method, the wire, when passing through the heating head, will melt, and then it is inkjet printed on the printing table with the correct size and shape as the cross-section of the specimen.

The layers formed have a thickness equal to the thickness of the cut layer. During the printing process, molten plastic is bonded together layer by layer until the pattern is completed.

Advantages and disadvantages of rapid prototyping technology

About advantages

Rapidly perfecting product research and development: Iteratively perfecting designs helps uncover problems that are going wrong. In addition, thanks to rapid prototyping technology, design engineers can also pre-check the assembly process, stress, and durability of the product.

Improve product quality: Products made from rapid prototyping are easy to plan before production, during the      fabrication and design stages to detect and eliminate hard-to-resolve problems. . On the other hand, the product is also produced more      complete than the design.

Improved production process: Users can fix errors and fix them before mass production. In addition, 3D printing can make cooling channels more efficient, making the mold work more efficiently.

Improve quality in the market: Products made with rapid prototyping technology were launched to the market earlier than expected and we’re trusted and chosen by many customers. 

Rapid Prototyping Cons

High-cost level – There are currently many options to reduce the cost of 3D printers. But if you have high requirements for the quality of printed samples, the cost of 3D printing is still quite high.

Rapid prototyping is not used to make metal molds.

After processing, the product has not had a high gloss.

The level of elasticity is limited, and the stress has not been  measured.

I went with you to explore rapid prototyping technology. It can be seen that this method is a discovery and advancement of the manufacturing industry, making the process of researching new products much more complete.


In general, the manufacturing method of 3D printing is to build layer by layer until the object is complete. The process of cutting, layering, or measuring layers is not simple and they can affect the ability to accurately shape. Therefore, the machines used need to ensure high accuracy and of course, it means that the cost you spend is quite high.