3D Printing vs Rapid Prototyping – 3 Differentiating Factors

Thanks to the advancements of technology, many industries are now enjoying the rewards of modern product development methods. Not only do these processes aid in enhancing the quality of new items, but they also multiply the speed at which they're made. One of the most significant examples of this is the introduction of 3D printing and rapid prototyping.

While 3D printing and rapid prototyping aren’t new terms, they still play massive roles in making the lives of designers, engineers, and others much simpler. If we were to ask you about the difference between rapid prototyping and 3D printing, though, would you have an answer? If not, you aren’t alone. Many people think that these two terms are interchangeable, although they’re quite different.

The Definitions

Rapid prototyping, also known as RP, is a process utilised in additive manufacturing used to create models much faster than before. It is carried out with the help of a 3D printer or a piece of technology that utilises additive manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing is a technology that allows a design to be printed layer by layer. Put simply, it is the adding layers on top of each other—hence the term additive.

3D printing, on the other hand, describes the entire process, which begins at the 3D model itself that is then turned into a physical object. 3D printing, then, is a term that describes the general process itself, whereas rapid prototyping is just one application that exists under 3D printing or additive manufacturing. 

Now, let’s briefly discuss three factors that make rapid prototyping and 3D printing so different from one another. 

The Price

When it comes to pricing, there is a considerable price difference between rapid prototyping and 3D printing. The former will come with a considerably heftier price tag.

Many factors contribute to this—the type of materials used, maintenance, and so on. However, perhaps the real reason there is such a price gap between the two is that rapid prototyping technology costs over tens of thousands of dollars to maintain, while the upkeep of a 3D printer is cheap in comparison.

The Material

While 3D printing technology is constantly expanding the list of materials it can work with, it is nothing compared to rapid prompting. While 3D printing is limited to plastic-like materials such as PVC, rapid prototyping can utilise ABS, acrylic polycarbonate, and so on. 

The Complexity

3D printers have the upper hand over rapid prototyping in terms of how easy it is to utilise the technology. 3D printing barely requires any training, as there isn’t much to adjust compared to rapid prototyping. However, 3D printing will take longer depending on the accuracy and the complexity of the part it is trying to print. What slows down the 3D printing process the most is the modelling part. That said, once that model is created, the process of printing and producing the models is quick and easy. 

To conclude, we hope that you now know the differences between rapid prototyping and 3D printing. The next time someone brings up the topic or you require such a service, you’ll know exactly which ones you should be opting for depending on your needs and budget without ending up with a solution that’s too expensive or unable to achieve the results you want.

If you want to know more about this topic or need any 3D printing services in the UK, get in touch with us to see how we can help.

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