3D printed prototypes what it is, how it works, advantages, what can be done, examples

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3D printing prototypes: what it is

3D printing is a digital manufacturing process used for the production of prototypes in plastic or metal.

Until a few years ago the term 3D printing was mainly used in the industrial sector, today it is also used referring to B2C market.

The reasons for this change are of various kinds, the increasingly widespread use of these technologies and the introduction of the word “3D printer” have facilitated the use of this term in the common jargon.

3D printing prototypes

Initially it referred to printers working through filaments called FDM Fused Deposition Modeling; to date, the term 3D printing refers to all additive manufacturing processes that are used for the production of prototypes.

We can therefore state that the term 3D printing is synonymous with rapid prototyping, rapid prototyping, additive manufacturing.

How it works: the process

The steps necessary for the production of prototypes through 3D printing are quite standardized.

  • 3D cad design of the three-dimensional file
  • Model generation
  • Production through the chosen process
  • Post-treatments

3D cad design of the three-dimensional file

This step is followed by the designer. It is very important to have a thorough knowledge of the different rapid prototyping technologies to define the file in an optimal way.

Nowadays, the 3D model is a man-machine communication tool, which is why it is necessary to adequately model the file to get the best out of each printing process.

The choices made in the design phase are fundamental for the subsequent prototyping and production steps.

Model generation

The software used for 3D printing reads the volume of the solid as well as the surfaces.

If we are designing a 3D model with the intention of creating a 3D printing prototype, it is always necessary to have:

  • Solid closed watertight.
  • The surfaces must have an adequate thickness.

To get a clear picture of the modeling steps, our guide on how to design a file for 3D printing will be useful.

3D printing prototypes

Production through the chosen process

After the design phase we can start the production of the prototype.

At this point we will have already chosen the process that best suits our needs, in fact this choice is made during the modeling phase in order to optimize the file according to the type of printing.

The prototyping technology is chosen based on the tests that must be carried out on the part.

To get the right answers from the model it is necessary to well know what we expect from the prototype, only in this way will we be able to choose the most suitable process.

The needs and tests to be carried out can be of various kinds:

  • Aesthetics
  • Assembly with other components and / or electronics
  • Waterproofness
  • Electromagnetic compatibility
  • Resistance to chemical agents
  • Sterilization
  • Wind tunnel tests
  • Simulation of a rigid plastic or rubber counter-type
  • Corrosion and wear
  • Abrasion
  • Dissipation
  • Thermal tests
  • Conductivity
  • Pre-series to be used at the fair or as a pre-sale to the customer
  • Light tests in the lighting sector

Each process has its own specificity, so it is necessary to know in depth the advantages and disadvantages of each of them in order to choose the best technology for your product.

Post treatments

Post treatments are operations that are performed on prototypes to improve the performance and finish of the model.

Each technology has a different post process: removal of supports, washing in alcohol, stabilization in the oven, term treatments and much more.

In addition to these steps on the prototypes, it is possible to perform surface finishes, always to improve performance, structural quality or aesthetic finish.

When 3D printing can be used

3D printing finds application in every field and in every industrial sector.

If until a few years ago it was almost exclusively industrial use, today the use of 3d printing has also spread to the consumer sector.

The cost-benefit analysis remains to be evaluated for each individual case, but this study is closely linked to the specific application.

Our experience is exclusively linked to the uses, tests and needs of the industry. In this regard, we can certainly say that 3D printing has found use in all industrial sectors and given the potential for development, the prospects for growth and dissemination are still very broad.

3D printing advantages

The advantages of using the use of rapid prototyping technologies are of various kinds:

  • Optimization of the development phases; thanks to the tests that are carried out, it is possible to optimize the engineering and arrive at an optimized production.
  • Reduction of product development times and related market placement: time to market improvement.
  • Production of parts with very complex geometry impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing systems.
  • Possibility of production on demand with relative reduction of warehouse costs.
  • Pre-sale of the product with prototype models to collect feedback from your market or waiting for the final production parts.

Why choose Coesum

Our value is in the experience gained for over twenty years on all 3D printing technologies.

We have all the technologies used in the industrial field FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), SLA (Stereolithography), SLS (Sintering), MJF (Multi Jet Fusion). As well we have a vacuum casting department for the production of small series through silicone replicas and a workshop department with machining centers up to 5 axes.

This allows us to always propose the best solution in a very short time.

To all this Coesum adds the ability to follow the product development phases from industrial design to the final molding production for both plastic and metal parts.

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