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Rapid Prototyping technology (RP) uses various manufacturing techniques to create physical parts directly from CAD model data quickly. Rapid prototyping helps apply at any stage of the product development cycle for any component or subcomponent. Prototypes can be repeated many times during the design process of a new product, which is what using test data is all about to produce the desired parts. Rapid prototyping processes is high fidelity prototype. In this article, we will explain this concept more broadly in conjunction with CNC.


What rapid prototyping and 3D printing is all about

Is rapid prototyping the same as 3D printing? The simple answer is: no. However, in today’s product development process, which can be used first is often used in conjunction with terms such as „3D printing” and „incremental manufacturing,” mainly because 3D printing first gained prominence as rapid prototyping. However, many incremental manufacturing techniques have advanced and made great strides in producing high-quality parts that may not be the first choice for some prototypes due to the higher cost of 3D printing.

The difference between rapid prototyping and 3D printing 

3D printing or additive manufacturing is the manufacturing process, while prototyping is the result or final product. Additionally, 3D printing itself or other techniques can be used to create rapid prototypes.

Why is rapid prototyping such an attractive solution for the market?

Companies need to develop and introduce new products faster and faster to remain competitive in today’s rapidly changing consumer market. Since rapid development and technological innovation are critical to a company’s success, rapid prototyping is becoming paramount in new product development. In addition, such methods also make it easier to achieve the following goals,

  • Faster development – prototyping plays a crucial role in creating a successful product, as it speeds up the process of manufacturing a new product,
  • Early design/concept phase – including verification of form, fit, and function of the design,
  • Verification of the product in the final stage against technical requirements and business objectives,
  • Enabling functionality testing to check concept assumptions and finalize the product,
  • Prototypes provide end users, clients, customers, and project participants with hands-on experience for feedback.

In addition, it is worth highlighting the derivatives of the development of this field, which include:

  • Rapid prototyping applications,
  • Visual prototypes,
  • Conceptual models,
  • Functional prototypes,
  • Pre-production prototypes,
  • Tools for prototype production,
  • Molds for prototype production.

Advantages of rapid prototyping process

Faster concept development and research – Rapid prototyping takes initial ideas to low-risk concept exploration that look like natural products in the blink of an eye. It allows designers to go beyond virtual visualization to more easily understand the look of a design and compare concepts among themselves.

Effective communication of ideas – Physical models enable designers to share their ideas with co-workers, clients, and superiors to communicate ideas in a way that would not be possible just by visualizing the design on a screen. Rapid prototyping facilitates the delivery of clear, practical user feedback that developers/designers need to understand user needs and refine and improve their designs.

Iterate designs and make changes immediately – Design is always an iterative process, requiring multiple rounds of testing, evaluation, and refinement before reaching the final product. Rapid prototyping with 3D printing streamlines this critical trial-and-error process, giving you the flexibility to more conveniently create more realistic prototypes and make changes immediately. A good model is a 24-hour design cycle: dynamic design, 3D printing prototype parts overnight, revisions and testing the next day, modifications, and so on until the end.

Cost and time savings – With 3D printing, expensive tools and setups are not needed; the same equipment can be used to produce different geometries. In-house rapid prototyping eliminates the high costs and implementation time associated with outsourcing.

More accurate testing and minimization of design defects – In design and manufacturing, early detection and repair of design flaws can help companies avoid costly redesigns and tool changes in the future. Rapid prototyping enables engineers to accurately test prototypes that look and function like final products, reducing the risk of usability problems before they go into production.

CNC machining – advantages and disadvantages 

For parts whose function depends on high precision and tolerances, CNC machining remains the best prototyping method available. CNC processes are a subtractive manufacturing process in which blocks and rods of metal and plastic are milled and turned to produce high-precision, complex parts. Many materials are available to fit any application.

For CNC rapid prototyping of parts, only the critical features of the part that must be machined and disassembled are considered.


  • Excellent precision and surface finish,
  • Multiple material options,
  • High durability and ability to perform various functional and environmental tests.


  • Geometric limitations,
  • Expensive due to setup and tooling costs,
  • Minimal in-house capabilities due to equipment costs.

For which projects to choose CNC rapid prototyping techniques

CNC prototyping has many advantages. The main ones are listed below:

  • Digital physical prototyping: In CNC prototyping, digital images or prototype stimuli are created. The model will only be produced when the digital stimulation has demonstrated the proper function of the prototype. This helps ensure that the prototype is built to specification.
  • Precision and consistency: In CNC prototyping, CAD models with the required dimensions are created. Multiple dimensional changes can be made until the operator receives the exact output on the screen. CNC machines ensure that prototypes are produced with the precise accuracy of CAD models. Multiple prototypes with different designs can be made repeatedly using CNC machining.
  • Material compatibility: Unlike 3D (or additive manufacturing technology) printing, CNC prototyping is an attractive option for working with different engineering materials. Since the CNC process is used for prototypes that require mechanical strength, it allows using materials such as aluminum, steel, stainless steel, PPE, HDPE, etc. Materials used in CNC prototyping range from structural metals to engineering polymers.
  • Uninterrupted production: CNC machines operate 24/7 without the need for human intervention. If building a prototype is time-consuming, the operator can set the parameters, and the machine will do the job precisely. Thus, rapid prototyping in CNC machining saves time significantly.
  • Visual and functional accuracy of the final product: CNC prototype production results in prototypes that look similar to the desired result. This means that CNC prototypes’ visual and functional similarity is perfect, allowing product engineers to envision what the final product will look like. This, in turn, makes their testing efficient.
  • Complex prototyping: Unlike incremental manufacturing methods, CNC machining is suitable for complex product manufacturing. It gives designers the freedom to design complex prototypes. Since it is a subtractive manufacturing process, material removal helps refine the details of the workpiece. Therefore, rapid prototyping in CNC machining facilitates refinement.


Although CNC machining is a highly automated, it yields desirable results only when performed by experts. Marking, material considerations, CAD design, and machine availability make it a job for professionals. You should buy CNC rapid prototyping only from proven industry experts.

The technique itself can be used as high fidelity prototypes, continuous liquid interface production, laminated object manufacturing, metal and plastic prototyping, selective laser sintering, create prototypes, Which can be quickly implemented in production processes. For this reason, it is a good idea to have knowledge of it, or start using a specialized company.