How 3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping Empower Inventors

May 7th, 2015

The technical definition of rapid prototyping is a group of techniques employed by inventors to prepare a scale model of a specific part or assembly design using three-dimensional computer aid design (CAD). This process is also known as layered manufacturing, solid free-form manufacturing, and computer automated manufacturing. Inventors primarily use rapid prototyping to allow them to visualize and test their design in the earliest stages. The following are just some of the numerous benefits of this process:

  • Decreases time required for development
  • Cuts down on costly mistakes
  • Makes it easier for the design and development teams to communicate effectively
  • Minimizes the number of engineering changes required
  • Allows inventors to make the product increasingly complex
  • Decreases the total amount of time required from product conception to delivery



The Benefits of Rapid Prototyping with 3D Printing

Three-dimensional (3D) printing allows inventors to create multiple different prototypes of their invention and correct major design flaws before committing to the final physical product. 3D printing helps to eliminate the need for rework, retooling, and the scrapping of unusable parts. Before the inventor can get started with the 3D printing process, he or she needs to decide on a printer filament type. The following types of filament are most popular for 3D printing during the rapid prototyping process:

  • Acetal is a strong, rigid thermoplastic with exceptional resistance to wear. Because it has very low friction, it is ideal for printing gears, moving parts, and bearings.
  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is more flexible and resistant to impact than other types of filament paper. It also offers a longer life span and a higher melting point.
  • High Impact Polystyrene dissolves easily in limonene, a solvent with a pleasant citrus smell. This is a good choice for complicated printing projects.
  • Nylon 3D printing paper is both lightweight and strong. Inventors can print parts on this filament paper without having to worry about it cracking or breaking.
  • Polylactic Acid allows a person to print at low temperatures, which means it isn’t as prone to warping as other types of filament paper.
  • Polyvinyl Alcohol is a dissolvable filament that is valuable for its use as a support structure. It was the first type of 3D printing paper to completely dissolve in water. This led to the development of additional soluble prints.
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-modified prevents crystallization and allows the filament to be less brittle.
  • Polycarbonate filament can easily bend to cold, is highly temperature resistant, and is optically clear.
  • Polypropylene is both a tough and flexible thermoplastic. It is often used to create chairs, rope, clothing, and other common items.
  • Wood filament contains both recycled wood and binding polymers. Prototypes printed on this type of filament will continue to retain the appearance and smell of natural wood.

All of these filaments allow entrepreneurs to drastically cut design costs from the earliest stages to the release of the final product.


To learn more about turning your original concept or idea into a working prototype that can be presented to manufacturers and retailers, contact one of Innovate’s product design specialists today at