The Simple Guide to Prototyping Manufacturing

prototyping manufacturing

Introduction to Prototyping Manufacturing

Did you know that one of the best ways to speed up the product development process – and to get a better end product – is to use rapid prototyping manufacturing?

Rapid Prototyping involves creating a prototype, or preliminary version, of a product before full-scale production.

This allows you to test the feasibility and functionality of the product before investing in mass production. And it’s not just for large companies with big budgets!

Rapid prototyping services are available for small businesses and individual inventors, so there’s no excuse not to try them out.

rapid prototyping process

There are several different types of rapid prototyping, but all share one common goal: getting your product idea into the hands of consumers as quickly as possible.

Here are some of the most popular methods and processes according to how you can use them in prototype manufacturing.

Common Processes of Prototyping Manufacturing

In the field of prototyping manufacturing, a variety of processes are used to create prototypes. Below is a brief overview of some of the most common processes employed:


Stereolithography (SLA) is a 3D printing technology used to create models and prototypes from a digital file in prototyping manufacturing.

The printer uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser to draw the design on the surface of a photosensitive polymer resin. The UV light causes the resin to harden and build up in layers, creating a 3D model of the design.


SLA is one of the most accurate 3D printing technologies available, with a layer thickness that can be as low as 0.025 mm.

It is also one of the most widely used technologies for creating prototypes and models for engineering and design applications.

SLA has been used to create models for products such as medical devices, eyewear, and consumer electronics.

In addition, SLA is an essential technology for research and development in many industries, such as aerospace and automotive.


SLS, or selective laser sintering, is a 3D printing process that uses a laser to fuse small powder beds/particles.

The powder can be made from various materials, including metals, plastics, and ceramics. SLS is similar to a 3D printing process called SLA or stereolithography.

Both processes use a laser to create objects from a liquid or powder material. However, in stereolithography, the liquid is cured into a solid using ultraviolet light.


SLS does not require curing since the powder is already in a solid state. This makes SLS faster and less expensive than SLA.

Moreover, SLS can create complex shapes that would be difficult or impossible to create with other manufacturing methods.

As a result, SLS is increasingly being used in various industries, including aerospace, automotive, and medical.

DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering)

DMLS is an additive manufacturing process using a laser to melt and fuse metallic powder.

The DMLS machine directed the energy of a high-power laser beam at an excellent layer of metal powder, melting the particles together by using a powder bed.

The build platform then lowers by an increment to allow another layer of powder to be applied.

This process repeats until the desired three-dimensional shape has been built up.


DMLS has become increasingly popular as it offers several advantages over traditional fabrication methods.

The most significant advantage is that DMLS does not require molds or dies, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

In addition, DMLS provides high accuracy and repeatability, meaning that parts can be manufactured to tight tolerances with little waste.

As a result, DMLS is an attractive option for prototyping and small-scale production runs.


In Fused Deposition Modeling, prototyping manufacturing is achieved by extruding materials through a nozzle head. The molten material is deposited layer-by-layer according to a computer-aided design (CAD) model.

This technology offers an efficient and versatile method to create prototypes and products from almost any geometry imaginable.

One of the main benefits of FDM is that it can create intricate internal features that would be otherwise impossible to produce with traditional machining processes.


It can also produce large parts in shorter timeframes than other additive manufacturing processes.

In addition, due to the process’s nature, FDM can produce strong and durable parts with good surface finish properties.


The process of MJF (Multi Jet Fusion) is a standard 3D printing technology that is used in both prototyping and manufacturing.

It offers high precision, accuracy, and a fast build time. The main difference between prototyping and manufacturing with MJF is the type of material used.

Lower-grade materials are typically used in prototyping, while high-performance materials are used in manufacturing.

This results in a higher quality product in manufacturing. MJF is a versatile technology that can be used for many applications, making it an attractive option for prototyping and manufacturing.

PJET (PolyJet)

Unlike binder jetting, PolyJet 3D printing technology works by jetting tiny drops of photopolymer material onto a build tray.

Layer by layer, the build platform is filled with the part being created.

To support complex geometries or overhanging features, thin layers of the support material are also jetted.

Once the build is complete, the supports can be easily removed by hand, dissolved in water, or peeled away.

What’s more, PolyJet materials are available in nearly 500 color combinations, so your parts can be as vibrant as your imagination. 


PolyJet technology offers high accuracy and detail resolution – down to 16-micron layer thickness – for exceptional surface quality.

And because parts are built one layer at a time, there are no issues with warping or delamination common to other 3D printing technologies.

If you need functional prototypes fast – including rubber-like materials or clear parts – or want to produce multicolor marketing models, PolyJet technology is the answer.

CNC Machining

CNC machining has transformed the prototyping and manufacturing processes by significantly reducing the need for manual labor.

cnc milling cnc turning and cnc mill turn machining

In the past, machining processes were controlled by manual operators who had to be highly skilled to achieve precise results.

With CNC machining, programmed instructions are fed into a computer, which then controls the operation of the machine.

This eliminates the need for a human operator and allows for much more precise results.

As a result, CNC machining has revolutionized the manufacturing process and is now an essential tool in various industries.

IM (Injection Molding)

IM (Injection Molding) is the process of prototyping manufacturing for producing parts by injecting molten material into a mold.

The main advantages of IM are that it is relatively inexpensive and fast, especially when compared to other processes such as machining or casting.

In addition, IM can be used to produce parts with very tight tolerances and intricate shapes. However, there are some disadvantages to IM as well.

plastic injection mold

For example, the process is typically limited to low-volume production runs, and it can be challenging to produce parts with thin walls or complex geometries.

As a result, IM is often best suited for applications where cost and speed are paramount, and the finished product does not require high precision.

Comparing Prototyping Manufacturing Processes

Now that we have discussed rapid prototyping and looked at the different processes involved, let’s compare them to help you identify the best option for your needs:

Process Description Finish Strength Example Materials
SLA  Laser Cured Polymer The average additive thickness per layer is 0.002 to 0.006 inches (0.051 to 0.152mm). 2,500 to 10,000 pounds per square inch 17.2 to 68.9 megapascals Photopolymers that resemble thermoplastics
SLS Powder that has been sintered using a laser The layers are approximately 0.004 inches (0.102mm) thick on average 5,300 to 11,300 pounds per square inch (psi) 36.5 to 77.9 megapascals (Mpa) TPU, Nylon
DMLS  Metal powder that a laser has sintered The average layer thickness for this additive manufacturing  process is 0.0008 to 0.0012 inches or 0.020 to 0.030mm 37,700 to 190,000 pounds per square inch (psi)   Inconel, Stainless steel, chrome, titanium, aluminum
FDM Extruded products that have been joined or fused together To get the desired results, add 0.005 to 0.013 inches (0.127 to 0.330mm) of material in layers. 5,200 to 9,800 pounds per square inch (psi) 35.9 to 67.6 megapascals (Mpa) ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), PC (polycarbonate), PPSU (polyphenylene sulfone)/ABS, PC/PPSU
MJF An inkjet array is selectively fused across a bed of nylon powder The standard thickness of an additive layer is between 0.0035 and 0.008 inches (0.089-0.203mm). 6,960 pounds per square inch (psi) 48 megapascals (Mpa) Black nylon fabric is perfect for a variety of applications. It is strong and durable, yet still soft and flexible. This fabric is easy to care for and can be machine-washed and dried. Applied here.
PJET A type of photopolymer that is cured using UV light, typically in a jetting process The average thickness of each additional layer is 0.0006 to 0.0012 inches (0.015 to 0.030 millimeters). 7,200 to 8,750 pounds per square inch (psi) 49.6 to 60.3 megapascals (Mpa) Elastomeric and Acrylic-based photopolymers.
CNC  Created with the help of computer-operated machines Subtractive machining that makes a smooth surface. 3,000 to 20,000 pounds per square inch (psi) 20.7 to 137.9 megapascals (Mpa) Metals and engineering-grade Thermoplastics
IM   Injection moldings and creation using aluminum tooling. Molded surfaces are smooth (or with selected texture), providing a sleek look and feel. 3,100 to 20,000 pounds per square inch (psi) 21.4 to 137.9 megapascals (Mpa) Types of materials used in manufacturing commodities or engineering-grade Thermoplastics, liquid rubber, and metal are the most commonplace.

Why is Prototype Manufacturing Important?

Prototyping is essential for several reasons. First, it allows the prototype to be checked for fit.

This is essential for products that will be used as interactive, such as toys or furniture.

Prototyping can save valuable time and money by identifying potential problems before series production begins.

rapid prototyping CNC milling

Finally, rapid prototyping can create initial models for testing before mass production.

By testing products before they are widely available, companies can ensure that they meet customer expectations and reduce the risk of recalls or other problems.

Key Factors to Consider When Selecting Prototype Manufacturing

Several factors should be considered when selecting rapid prototyping services. These include:


When selecting a manufacturing process for prototypes, several factors must be considered. The first is the level of quality and accuracy required for the prototype.

If the prototype is for a final product subject to scrutiny, choosing a prototyping process that will produce precise results is essential.

On the other hand, if the prototype is just for testing purposes and can be different from the final product, then a less accurate prototype manufacturing may be sufficient.

In addition to accuracy, the level of detail required in the prototype is also essential.

If the prototype needs to closely resemble the final product in terms of look and feel, then a process like SLA or SLS printing may be best.

However, if the focus is on function over form, then a less detailed manufacturing process like FDM may be sufficient.

Ultimately, the choice of rapid prototyping process should be based on the specific requirements of the project at hand.


When it comes to manufacturing prototypes, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The prototyping process should be based on the project’s specific needs.

Factors to consider when selecting a prototyping process include the part’s or prototype’s complexity.

More complex parts or prototypes will require more specialized processes, such as injection molding or machining.

Simpler processes such as 3D printing or CNC machining may be sufficient for less complex parts or prototypes.

The best way to determine which prototyping process is right for a project is to consult an experienced rapid prototyping manufacturer.


When deciding which type of prototyping technology to use for a project, it’s essential to consider the cost of the process.

Some technologies require additional post-processing steps or materials, which can inflate the price.

In addition, the speed of the prototyping process can also affect the cost.

For example, if you need a prototype quickly, you may have to pay a premium for a faster turnaround time.

Ultimately, the best way to keep costs down is to work with a reliable rapid prototyping company with experience in your industry.


How Does Rapid Prototyping Relate to On-demand Manufacturing?

To manufacture a product, companies must set up assembly lines, create dies or molds, and purchase large quantities of raw materials.

Rapid prototyping can play an essential role in custom manufacturing by helping to assess whether a product is feasible to mass-produce.

Additionally, prototypes can be used to test assembly processes and identify potential issues that need to be addressed before manufacturing begins.

When Should You Use Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping should be used whenever a product is being developed or improved.

This can include when a product is being designed from scratch, when it’s being modified to work better, or when an existing solution needs to be adapted for a new use.

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