Prototyping - What is it and How Does Prototyping Work
By Ryan Rounds
Rapid Prototyping can be defined as the process of constructing physical objects automatically by making use of 'solid freeform fabrication'. The initial techniques regarding prototyping came into being in late 1980s. They were then used for producing prototype parts and models. In today's world, they are being used for much wider applications. For instance- manufacture of quality parts. This technology is used by certain sculptors for producing complex shapes in order to display them in 'fine arts exhibitions'.
Origin: Rapid prototyping has taken virtual designs through 'animation modeling software' or 'computer aided design (CAD)'. Thereafter, transformation into virtual, thin, horizontal cross-sections takes place. Each cross-section then gets created in the physical space. This process goes on till the model gets completed. It is better known as WYSIWYG process. Let's understand this process in detail.
WYSIWYG: WYSIWYG as the abbreviation for 'What You See Is What You Get'. It is used in 'computing' for describing a system wherein content looks similar to final product at the time of editing. It is generally used in word processors. However, this use is in the form of HTML (Web) authoring. The popularization of this phrase was carried out by the comedian 'Flip Wilson'. His character 'Geraldine' used to say this very often to give an excuse against her idiosyncratic behavior.
This expression came to be applied later to computer-based applications as practicality in technology arrived. At times, it is phonetically spelled as 'Wizzywig' or 'Wizywig'. It has also been used as a brand name for a 'lighting design tool' utilized in theatre industry to pre-visualize the shows and 3D CAD.
The process further: The additional fabrication causes the machine to read data from CAD drawing. After that, consecutive layers of powder, sheet material, or liquid are laid down. Likewise, a model gets built-up from a chain of cross-sections. Such layers, corresponding to CAD model's virtual cross section, are then fused automatically or joined together for creating the ultimate shape. The basic advantage of additive fabrication goes to state that any geometric feature or shape can be created through this.
The CAD software and machines are interfaced by the 'standard data interface' in the 'STL file format'. The function of STL file is approximating the shape of an assembly or a part by making use of triangular facets. Surfaces of higher quality are produced by smaller facets.
The word 'rapid' can be used relatively. The construction of models using present-day methods could take time ranging from a few hours to a few days. This depends on the technique used, along with the complexity and size of the model. The additive systems take less time. They can produce models within some hours. Some techniques such as 'solid freedom fabrication' make use of two materials for construction of parts. The 1st material is known as 'part material' and the 2nd one as 'support material'. The removal of support material takes place by heat. It might also be dissolved with water or any other solvent. When it comes to manufacture of plastic products, that too in large quantities, injection molding proves to be a cheaper alternative.
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