The results of rapid prototyping are in use all around us every day.
There are seemingly endless examples of rapid prototyping, and people are discovering new ways to use it daily.
Here are some of the most interesting examples we could find.
Examples Of Rapid Prototyping In Aerospace
The aerospace industry has used various forms of rapid prototyping over the decades. It helps aerospace engineers to do several things:
3D Printed Satellites
Fleet Space, an Australian aerospace engineering company, started developing satellites using advanced 3D printing technology, one form of rapid prototyping.
Though the company is careful not to divulge too much information, the satellites will be groundbreaking regarding technological benefits and their low-cost manufacturing process.
The rapid prototyping approach also ensures that Fleet Space can identify potential faults and problems much sooner in the development stage, saving the engineers the effort and cost of additional troubleshooting later.
Rapid Prototyping To Build A Moon Base
Scientists and engineers on the International Space Station started experimenting with stereolithography in 2021 to test the viability of using rapid prototyping processes to build a moon base.
The experiments have progressed exceptionally well, meaning there’s a high possibility that humans can construct a moon base without having to send most of the materials pre-built from the earth.
Rocket launches are costly, even if we can re-use them, as SpaceX has been demonstrating, so sending all of the parts to construct a survival base on the moon (and potentially, much later, Mars) will cost a fortune.
Rapid prototyping, specifically 3D printing, will save governments and corporations a ton of money.
Airbus Reducing Aircraft Emissions Using Rapid Prototyping
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus recently started rapidly prototyping replacement parts for some existing planes.
The company’s engineers found that they could replace many of the current metallic components with rapidly prototyped replacements that weigh up to 70% less while offering identical performance.
It means that an Airbus aircraft’s weight can be reduced significantly, leading to less fuel use and, in the end, lower carbon emissions.
Medical Examples Of Rapid Prototyping
Strangely, the medical field is one of the most significant emerging industries when it comes to rapid prototyping, with scientists finding some excellent uses for the technology:
Training And Pre-Operation Preparation
Rapid prototyping enables teachers, professors, and lecturers to instantly create realistic and life-sized models of various human organs and limbs.
This is far beyond the old biological demo models we always see standing in life science classrooms.
Instead, the educator can create a replica of the specific organ, cell, or concept they are discussing at the time inexpensively and almost instantly.
Surgeons have also begun preparing for operations with rapidly prototyped models of the part of the anatomy they will perform a complex process on.
This improves their success rate considerably while not costing much money, improving the patient’s chances of recovery (not to mention their medical bill).
Manufacturing Replacement Body Parts
One of the most incredible applications of rapid prototyping in the medical field is transplants.
Some human organs don’t have to consist of biological matter. In particular, bone transplants, like hip and knee replacements, work well with rapidly prototyped parts.
Medical engineers can design an exact model that perfectly fits the patient’s body shape from MRI or CT-scan data, lowering the turn-around time and decreasing the possibility of error.
Rapidly Prototyping Dentures
Though few dentists are making use of rapid prototyping as much as they should, the potential is there.
Some are already doing amazing things by 3D printing sample sets of dentures, for example, to ensure that the fit is correct for patients.
CAD software can enable them to make changes instantly and test the updated dentures before manufacturing the final product.
Rapid Prototyping In Robotics And Mechanics
This may come as no surprise, but robotics and mechanical engineering have extensively used rapid prototyping for years, and it has revolutionized both industries.
Machines use moving parts and plenty of them. From gears and cogs to pistons and bolts, every aspect of a machine is crucial to make it function as it should.
There are two primary examples of how mechanical engineers use rapid prototyping:
- Designing a mechanism. Rapid prototyping allows the engineer to save valuable time and resources by instantly making a new design model. They can use the model to test if their idea will work and how to change it to make it work better. They can see a real-world example of their design in action rather than trusting that their designs are flawless.
- Replacing a part. If a machine breaks, finding a replacement for the damaged component could take time. Rapid prototyping changes this. In many cases, a mechanical engineer can draw up a design (or find a completed one) and use rapid prototyping to make a replacement part that temporarily fulfils the role.
Robotics is all about making mechanical objects that can move autonomously.
As with mechanical engineering, rapid prototyping ensures that robotics engineers can get a model of their designs, test it, and make changes instantly.
For example, many schools implement their robotics curriculums using devices like Arduino boards to control the devices.
They then use different forms of rapid prototyping, like laser cutting and 3D printing, to make the device’s outer shell.
This allows students to get creative with their designs but immediately test and see if their plans will work.
Rapid Prototyping Examples In Civil Engineering
As with all the other forms of engineering, civil engineers also make extensive use of rapid prototyping.
Making Models Of Buildings
This part consists of teamwork between civil engineers, building contractors, and architects. It involves the process of rapidly prototyping a model of a building for two reasons:
- To show the customer a demo of the architectural design, after which the customer can ask for changes to the plan.
- To see potential flaws and drawbacks in the design so they can make changes instantly before the costly building project starts.
A significant area of concern in this regard is building a bridge.
Rapid prototyping, with proper weight and strength ratios, allows civil engineers to see if a bridge design will be strong enough to handle the weight of anticipated traffic.
Yes, plenty of mathematical calculations are involved as well, but nothing beats the experience of a model you can design and build rapidly.
An example of why rapid prototyping is crucial for building projects is the so-called “Walkie Talkie Centre” in London.
The building has a unique design and look, which makes it a landmark in the city.
However, because the architects and engineers didn’t use proper rapid prototyping, the plan has two major flaws.
First, the building acts as a mirror that reflects sunlight down into the street below, causing temperatures of around 160°F. It’s hot enough to fry eggs or even melt parts of a car (which happened to a Jaguar parked in the street).
The owners had to install screens to block the reflection, which ruined the look that they were going for.
The second flaw is that the building’s curve and angle cause strong winds in the street, over and above the extreme heat.
These flaws could have been avoided if the architect had used proper rapid prototyping techniques to test the design before the construction started.
Developing Solutions For Building Problems
Architectural design is only one side of a civil engineer’s challenges.
After a building has been designed and constructed, new challenges will inevitably pop up, and it’s the job of the civil engineer to find solutions to these issues.
Rapid prototyping is the fastest and most affordable way to test possible solutions.
It might be something as small as an aircon duct that keeps on collapsing or as severe as a building that melts cars in the street below. Rapid prototyping enables the engineer to design, make, and test a potential solution much faster than otherwise possible.
An example of this form of rapid prototyping is the screen design engineers made to stop the aforementioned “Walkie Talkie Centre” from reflecting the sun too harshly.
The screens had to be designed in such a way that they could be mounted without too much effort, be sturdy enough to withstand weather, and allow enough light through the windows without reflecting it.
This time, the architects and engineers did proper due diligence and, through the miracle of rapid prototyping, made a screen design that met their needs and solved the problem in record time.
While these are just a few examples of rapid prototyping the concept expands into all fields and industries, including electronics and software development.
Rapid prototypes speed up the design, development and manufacturing process and helps to avoid costly mistakes.
Hopefully, these examples have given you a few ideas for using rapid prototyping to implement your ideas successfully.