Industrial design is a field in which product design is the core, and art and technology are unified. Rapid prototyping is a very important part of product design and a process to repeatedly test, demonstrate and improve the rationality of ideas. In the past hundred years of industrial design development, prototyping has been constantly innovating along with technology development. While prototyping is performed not only with the technology from the Bauhaus era, but also with other industrial design prototyping technologies such as CNC machining and 3D printing (an additive manufacturing method of rapid prototyping).

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Rapid prototyping produces parts within a short time. 3D printing can even make an object even within several hours. In this case, industrial design prototyping expedites the process before the new products go into the market. The vital role prototyping plays in industrial design is to verify the idea of appearance, structure, and functions. Rapid prototyping helps designers improve the design and gather customer feedback. However, how to do prototyping right and fast is a question. The most important thing is to choose the optimal machining methods, materials, and surface finishing. There are two top-drawer tips for you.

1. The choice of materials decides the machining methods in most cases.

Different rapid prototyping processes use distinct materials. However, I would like to remind you that the materials used for rapid prototyping are not the same as mass production. They can only be similar to the materials of end-use products. 

If you are designing a plastic product, consider CNC machining, vacuum casting, and 3D printing. When the quantity is large, vacuum casting is the best way because it can replicate 10-20 parts via one silicone mold. And only vacuum casting can produce soft rubber parts. The hardness is usually above Shore A 40. The hardness range is between Shore A 40 to 90. If the quantity is larger, you can consider low-volume production methods such as rapid tooling and reaction injection molding (RIM). The latter is more suitable for large-sized parts like automotive and medical device components.


If you want to make metal prototypes, choose from CNC machining, 3D printing, and sheet metal fabrication. Rapid prototyping of metal parts via 3D printing is relatively expensive and can be very costly in some situations due to the high cost of some metal powders. When the part thickness is less than 6mm, sheet metal fabrication rapid prototyping is a better option since it is more cost-efficient than CNC machining. Parts produced by sheet metal rapid prototyping are also of uniform thickness.

2. Components manufactured by different prototyping methods suit different surface finishing.

Materials are very vital for structural and functional parts. While surface treatment matters when it comes to prototypes for appearance testing purposes. Parts made by 3D printing have a relatively rough surface so the surface treatments available are limited. The reason is that 3D printing, an additive manufacturing way to do rapid prototyping, prints parts layer by layer, and there is a laminated texture. The additive manufacturing way of rapid prototyping avoids the waste of raw material powders but results in a relatively rough surface. The available finishing is rarely sanding, sandblasting, laser etching, polishing, painting, and chrome plating. 


Plastic and metal parts can also suit diverse finishing. Sometimes, you also need to decide on the most suitable material. For example, metallic paint can only be used on metal parts and some plastics cannot be painted. And plastic materials like POM and PP cannot be painted.


Improper prototyping methods would waste money and time. Nevertheless, if you still have no idea how to decide on the proper machining ways, a professional prototyping company like X Rapid Technologies can provide you with the best industrial design prototyping solution per your application. Get in touch today to kickstart your project!