Rapid prototyping technology (RP technology) is an advanced manufacturing technology developed in the 1990s. It is a key and common technology that serves the development of new products for manufacturing companies. It has a positive role in promoting product innovation and it can shorten the development cycle of new products and improve product competitiveness. This technology has been widely used in the manufacturing industries of developed countries since the advent of it, and a new technology field has emerged from then on.
Rapid prototyping technology can directly process product design (CAD) data without preparing any molds, tools and tooling fixtures. Samples, molds or models of new products can be quickly manufactured. Therefore, the popularization and application of RP technology can greatly shorten the development cycle of new products, reduce development costs, and improve development quality.
Rapid prototyping technology is an effective means for complex prototypes or parts manufacturing in concurrent engineering. It can synchronize product design and mold production during rapid prototyping processes, thereby improving enterprise research and development efficiency, shortening product design cycles, and greatly reducing the cost and risk of new product development. It is especially suitable for products with small dimensions and special shapes.
The parts manufactured through rapid prototyping can reproduce the three-dimensional modeling completely. Regardless of the special-shaped surface on the outer surface or the special-shaped hole in the inner cavity, the modeling can be completed accurately without the help of any external equipment.
There are many types of materials used in various RP equipment: resin, nylon, plastic, paraffin, paper, and metal or ceramic powder, which basically meet the mechanical properties of most products.
Compared with traditional machining methods, the development cost can be saved by more than 10 times. Similarly, rapid prototyping technology shortens the product development cycle of enterprises, greatly reducing the problems of repeatedly modifying the design plan in the new product development process, and basically eliminating the problem of modifying the mold. So the economic benefit created by it is obvious.
After years of development, rapid prototyping technology has basically formed a set of technical systems. Similarly, the applicable industries of RP technology have gradually expanded, from product design to mold design and manufacturing, material engineering, medical research, culture and art, architectural engineering, etc., creating a broad and bright prospect of RP technology.
The pump casing of the new rocket liquid oxygen engine is difficult to process with traditional machining methods and must be formed by molds. According to estimation, it takes 8 months to open the mold. If there is wrong with the product design, the entire mold will be scrapped.
Rapid prototyping technology can be used to make plastic samples for products, which can be used as a mold master for turning over silicone molds. For example, NASA rocket parts suppliers also apply this technology by fixing the master mold in an aluminum standard frame, pouring the matched silicone rubber, and setting it aside for 12-20 hours. When the silicone rubber is completely cured, open the mold frame, take out the silicone rubber and cut along the predetermined parting line with a knife, and take out the master mold. The silicone mold used to cast the wax of the pump casing has been successfully turned. Through this molding, a wax model is produced, after shell coating, roasting, lost wax, pressure casting process, and sandblasting, a qualified pump casing casting is manufactured in just two months. After necessary machining process, it can be installed and run, so that the entire trial production cycle is shortened by 2/3 compared with the traditional method, and the cost is saved by 3/4.