Most people often wonder the distinguishing factor between Rapid Prototyping and 3D Printing; well, the two terms are used along each other and have distinctive similarities. For instance, they both build models layer by layer from STL data. RP, as it’s commonly known is a technical term for this type of additive manufacturing process while 3D is the colloquial terms for the same to make many people grasp the technology easily. However, RP is done at industrial-level while 3D is done at the level of the consumer. That said here are some major differences between the two.
Cheaper Printing, Maintenance, and Feeding Costs for 3D Printers
There is a significant cost difference between 3D printing and RP systems based on various parts. It includes labor, maintenance, machine depreciation, and materials. Parts created using RP technology cost more compared to 3D printing. 3D printers cost much less to maintain and feed; the annual maintenance and feeding fee for 3D machine ranges from several hundreds to a few thousands. RP technology, on the other hand, cost tens of dollars annually. To replace a laser in a stereolithograpghy machine can cost 20,000 dollars while filling an RP machine with a photopolymer can cost over 50,000 dollars.
3D Printers Make Small Parts
The fact that they are physically smaller, they have minimal room to create more parts on the inside. They are limited to creating parts that can fit in an eight-inch cube on a side while RP systems offer a building compartment of at least 10 inches on a side with others going to over 3x3x2 feet and more. A smaller build envelope means that you cannot make bigger simultaneously. However, 3D printers are catching up slowly; more new thermoplastic extrusion entries are forfeiting a small printer to offer huge build up volumes.
3D Printers Are User and Office-Friendly
Since they are smaller and can sit on a desktop, 3D machines can be contained in an office and, can accept materials from different sources. RP systems are voluptuous in size, consume a lot of power, and are free standing. They are wired to use materials in enclosed means or proprietary cassettes. As a result, they need no training as this is the case with RP machines. It’s easier to create parts from the box using some professional technologies. Simplicity is well defined at the flexibility of the price which unlike RP systems, build parameters are not adjustable. Again, the system is not frequently at “plug & play” at the low-cost hobbyist level. Going for cheaper options, can be offset by the additional time needed to learn the machine, and getting it to run efficiently.
Limiting Material Options and Significant Level of Inaccuracy
Unlike RP machines, 3D systems do not offer the same range of material; in fact, metal materials are not available. However, it is possible that some functional parts can be created for different applications. The available materials are ideal for concept modeling which is a common use of 3D machines. Still at the level of a hobbyist, a few thermoplastic extrusion systems can utilize a variety of plastics which are pocket-friendly materials. Furthermore, RP systems produce better finishes and are more accurate compared to 3D printers, although the difference is not an order of scale. They have similar features especially for parts with the same size, and both rely to a larger degree on the available geometry. Compared to their costly RP counterparts, 3D printers are not as repeatable part from the ones that costs a little more which have specified part-accuracy. At the level of a hobbyist, the machines specify positioning which doesn’t add any value to the machines in any way.
3D Printers Are an Illustration of the Popularization and Advancement of Technology
This is something that is not unique to this field alone, in fact, it happens everywhere. During the commercialization of television, video cams were delicate, hard to maintain, large, and expensive machines. The cameras could only be utilized in well-guarded and lit studio environments, and it was hell to record even simple films. The resulting recordings of what came from the cameras were nothing but poor quality, black and white photos; it was hard to recognize the object in the picture. However, with the advancement in technology today, the entire television studio functions can fit the palm of the hand, they are cheaper, and work is flawless. Although professional machines are still there and provide better picture quality and more versatility, many users no longer require such abilities. The same is the case with other electronic devices like mobile phones, computers, and photocopiers, which come with additional fabrications. The reasons for using 3D machine are similar to using any additive technology. It involves verifying the design and sharing information across different platforms among other functions.