Rapid prototyping is the method of constructing physical objects using solid freeform fabrication. The use of rapid prototyping techniques had its start during the 1980’s where it was used to build product models. Its current applications have been put into use in a wider range of objectives.
The technique can even be used in order to manufacture quality useable parts in small numbers. Rapid prototyping has even found some applications in the art scene where sculptors use the technology to create intricate shapes that become art pieces.
An improved digital rapid prototyping system makes use of computers in order to create highly accurate design pieces. A digital rapid prototyping system makes use of virtual designs usually created with the help of computer aided design or animation modeling software programs.
The system then transforms the design into virtual cross sections which a special machine uses to recreate the exact design cross sections in physical space until a physical model is finished. The highly technical process enables virtual designs to take physical shape in very exact and accurate manner.
In rapid prototyping, there are usually two basic approaches to design systems being used. The approach chosen can either be formative or summative. The formative approach is being used for situations wherein the prototype is first built based on the current stage of the design. It is then tested on a control group with the results being used to integrate into the next stage of development in order to further enhance and improve on the usefulness of the current design.
The summative approach on the other hand takes a different course in developing product design. A single test exercise is performed at the end of the overall design enhancing process. At most times the approach is a two step stage. Following the summative approach can sometimes make it too costly to make design changes as the end stage nears.
But this approach is less time consuming and can be more cost effective initially if the projected design is seen to require little refinements when a prototype is done. But in the long run, using the formative approach will definitely be more beneficial. The main reason for this is because when a system is tested as a whole only once at the end of the design period, it may be very difficult to pin point the various flaws that may exist within the design.