The Stunning Rise of Rapid Prototyping and Its Applications

Rapid prototyping is going from strength to strength, but what exactly is the reason for that?
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Created: 4/3/2020

Thanks to technological advancements, the rapid prototyping industry has seen stunning amounts of growth over the last ten years. This booming market is worth millions of dollars and is responsible for a major revolution in the way that associated manufacturers design and creates new parts.


What is rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping can be defined as any technology that can turn a three-dimensional CAD model into a functional object. Additive manufacturing methods, including 3D printing, are the most common; with these processes, layers of plastic, nylon, or resin are fused into the desired shape. However, subtractive manufacturing methods, like CNC machining, have also proved to be incredibly effective for certain designs.

rapid prototyping cnc
Source: 3D Hubs

3D printing can be used to create parts made from nearly any type of thermoplastic and some metals. SLS and SLA remain popular for functional end-use parts, but material jetting, powder bed fusion and other processes are also common.

CNC rapid prototyping is typically preferred for metal objects. Because CNC machining is a subtractive manufacturing process, this method has some design limitations that are not present for 3D printing. However, the resulting parts are extremely durable and suited for nearly any application.

Some of the world's largest industries have started to rely on rapid prototyping. However, the process also remains open to individual manufacturers and companies of all sizes. From individual parts to large productions, rapid prototyping is a cost-effective choice for nearly any 3D design.

How big is the demand for rapid prototyping?

The rapid prototyping market accounts for material suppliers, manufacturers and distributors, and the engineers and designers who rely on these products.

The Stunning Rise of Rapid Prototyping and Its Applications
A Toronto-based company, Kepler, managed to get a satellite from the drawing board into orbit thanks to rapid prototyping providing by companies like 3D Hubs, Source: 3D Hubs

Rapid prototyping technologies include 3D printing, CNC machining, and other on-demand manufacturing methods.

  • The rapid prototyping market has had an average yearly growth of 27% since 2015.
  • The 2020 value of the U.S. rapid prototyping market is estimated at $309.9 million.
  • The global rapid prototyping market is expected to be worth $2.6 billion by 2025.
  • The thermoplastic market segment is the most popular, with both SLS and SLA rapid prototyping seeing regular orders from all sectors.
  • The industries most likely to make use of rapid prototyping services include healthcare, transportation, consumer goods, and manufacturing.

These statistics represent a major shift in the way that engineers design and test new products. From individual models to batches of as-needed parts, rapid prototyping has made quick and cost-effective manufacturing a reality for nearly every commercial field.

Rapid prototyping has seen significant growth lately

The rapid prototyping industry has seen rapid growth within the last decade. Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. market grew by an average of 22% every year. From 2015 to 2020, this yearly growth increased to an average of 27%. In 2020, the current market value is estimated at around $309.9 million.

Although the United States has the greatest market share, rapid prototyping has also seen worldwide popularity. If current growth rates continue, the global rapid prototyping market is expected to be worth 2.6 billion by 2025. This statistic includes a compound growth rate of 41% in the Asia-Pacific market, where massive industrialization has increased the demand for both manufacturing goods and consumer products.

What industries can benefit from rapid prototyping?

Nearly every manufacturing industry has benefited from rapid prototyping technology. However, a few specific market segments have come to rely on rapid manufacturing as a regular part of their design and production process.

  • Healthcare: The healthcare industry continues to dominate the rapid prototyping market. 3D printing services are commonly used to create surgical models, medical devices, and custom implants.
  • Manufacturing and Construction: The ability to design custom parts on an as-needed basis has been a great boon to engineers in all industries. Rapid prototyping can be used to create unique parts that fit perfectly and can be ordered in small batches with quick delivery times.
  • Consumer Goods and Electronics: From toys to tools to cases, the rapid prototyping industry has become one of the primary sources of consumer-ready plastic parts. This manufacturing method allows companies to achieve identical products across multiple print runs and has drastically reduced the cost of wholesale production.
  • Transportation: The advantages of rapid prototyping have not been lost in the automotive industry. In addition to testing new designs, many engineers use 3D printing to create highly detailed parts that would not be viable with traditional manufacturing methods.
rapid prototyping model

Source: 3D Hubs

Check out 3D Hubs if you are interested in rapid prototyping your own design

If the above information has piqued your interest, you might want to check out 3D Hubs. They are a specialized global network of engineers and manufacturers that have nurtured a reputation for their high-quality and speed of delivery.

Their intuitive platform allows engineers to readily upload their designs, receive an instant quote and start production within days. 

"Founded in 2013, the 3D Hubs network has since produced more than 4,000,000 parts, making 3D Hubs the global leader in distributed manufacturing. We have raised over $30M from the people behind the world’s most successful online platforms, such as Uber, Spotify, and Our company headquarters are located in the vibrant city center of Amsterdam, The Netherlands." - 3D Hubs

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