Rapid prototyping allows the quick and affordable production of part prototypes using 3D printing with computer aided design (CAD) software. This technology allows engineering companies to produce prototypes in-house in order for designers to test the product before it goes into production. The affordability of rapid prototyping allows the production of several prototypes, each with a slightly different design, to enable designers to make the best end product possible.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

3D printing works by layering and fusing materials (different materials are used for different industries and 3D printing machines) based on a virtual design. These objects created by 3D printing do not have the same physical or mechanical properties of parts created with traditional manufacturing methods. The global market for 3D printing amounts to a little over $2 billion.

Prototyping for Die Cast Parts

While 3D printing for prototyping is a cost-effective way to produce prototypes for some manufacturing processes, experts recommend that die cast prototypes should be die casted. While this method used to be considered expensive in previous years, developments in the industry now make die casting prototypes a viable option. Die cast prototypes are stronger and have the same mechanical properties of the part that will be made in production, providing an advantage to engineers for pre-production testing and design development.

The exception is for parts that will play an atheistic role only. In this scenario the properties of the die cast part is not as essential and 3D printing could be used to create the prototypes for these parts without any negative design effects on the final product.

Computer-aided design is sometimes used with additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) for rapid prototyping of die cast parts. Rapid prototyping creates models that are then used to make economical molded or gravity cast prototypes for die cast parts. However, the additive processes, like fused deposition modeling (FDM) or laser sintering are not used to create the actual prototypes.

3D Printing for Manufacturing?

Some strides are being made 3D printing for end products in specific industries, but for now, the technology is mostly for prototyping. The technology is a good ways from being able print parts for accurate testing for essential mechanical properties of die cast parts, like strength, hardness and elongation. 

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