The 3D printing technologies commonly involved in rapid prototyping are as follows:
- Selective Laser Sintering, SLS
- Selective Laser Melting, SLM
- Direct Metal Laser Sintering, DMLS
- Stereo Lithography Apparatus, SLA
- Fused Deposition Modeling, FDM
- Laminated Object Manufacturing, LOM
Different technologies enjoy different advantages in various areas. 3D printing in rapid prototyping services has three major applications.
1. Production of prototypes
All the above technologies can be applied in 3D printing prototype services. The tolerances, strength, and surface qualities of parts are different. Providing 3D prototype services is the most common application of 3D printing technology.
To be specific, people who need 3D printing prototype services would be as follows:
(1) Industrial designers: for product prototyping, toy design, lighting design, etc
(2) Art designers: for toy design, jewelry design, production of complex sculpture, film and television props, stop-motion animation models, etc
(3) Prototype fans: for doll models, handmade works, etc
(4) Mechanical designers: for mechanical parts, molds, etc
(5) Architects: for architectural prototyping, urban planning, wind tunnel/pressure testing, model house display, etc
(6) Technology geeks: for electronic DIY production, advanced toys, etc
(7) Researchers: for archaeology, medical, aerospace, weapons development, bioprinting, material researching, etc
(8) Publishing industry: for popular science magazines, popular science books, etc
(9) Students/Teachers: for teaching, researching, etc
In short, businesses and individuals need 3D printing prototype services to verify designs, test functions of products, attend exhibitions and other marketing occasions, showcase, and personal interests.
There is an amusing example. Beijing's 2012 Winter Olympic Games mascot, Bing Dwen Dwen, was such a hit then that many people weren't able to buy one. One of our brilliant customers turns to us asking for 3D prototype-making service for a Bing Dwen Dwen.
2. Indirect manufacturing of molds
3D printing is also used to make a model for producing molds, such as silicone molds, plaster molds, resin molds, sand molds, etc. Then, people use those molds to manufacture parts the same as the model. It is also how vacuum casting makes its master molds.
3. Direct manufacturing of molds
Soft molds and hard molds can be directly manufactured via 3D printing technologies like SLS and SLM. It stands out in making special-structured molds, such as conformal cooling molds, which are difficult to produce by traditional manufacturing methods. It is a primary highlight of 3D printing technology in the prototyping industry applications. Conformal cooling molds have many advantages. They can improve cooling efficiency, ensure uniform cooling, and enhance product quality and production efficiency.
There are many advantages of rapid prototyping by 3D printing services.
(1) 3D printing can achieve zero waste of production materials in the production process. It makes parts through layer-by-layer printing based on the three-dimensional design, thus achieving zero waste compared to traditional cutting processing.
(2) It accelerates product development. 3D printing has changed the way of thinking of designers. They will consider the weight-bearing and force-bearing capacities of different places of the part.
(3) Using a 3D printing prototype service can shorten the production cycle to a large extent. Rapid prototyping via 3D printing services helps to eliminate the design and proof process compared to traditional ones, shortening the production cycle from design to production. It allows designers to adjust their 3D drawings easily at a low cost.
(4) Rapid prototyping using 3D printing services reduces the need for human resources in the design and production process.