How to pick the suitable material for your Rapid prototyping needs

by Sergio Clark
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Prototyping services have been of great help to different fields through manufacturing of prototypes which they can use to improve, modify and enhance the products. Different fields require prototypes made from different materials or prototypes made from a variety of materials.

The main types of materials used in prototyping services are plastic, metal, ceramic, silicone and rubber. Each of the material is used in specific instances, to come up with the ideal product. Depending on the purpose of the product during its application or the customer’s needs, prototyping companies use different materials.


Plastic is the best suitable material to use in Additive manufacturing, urethane casting, or CNC machining processes. This is because they are an economical way to review the appearance and function of your design. Most of the prototyping companies use plastics such as thermo-plastic due to their ability to soften, flow after heating and because they are easy to recycle. Thermoplastic is suitable in making materials that require complex designs and shapes, and materials that are heat and chemical resistant. Additionally, plastic materials are easy to mold, color and they are good in achieving a smooth surface finish.


Metals are best applicable in CNC machining, sheet metal, or casting processes. The commonly used metals are aluminum, magnesium, steel, brass and copper. Most of these metals are used in prototyping due to their light nature, they are good conductors of heat and electricity, and because they are strong and durable. Metals are best applicable where a strong, durable and well finished product is required. On a negative note, metals can be labor intensive and they are mainly used in subtractive manufacturing processes such as milling, which results in a great wastage of material. Subtractive manufacturing involves cutting away from a solid material to achieve the desired fabricated product.


Ceramics are widely used in prototyping industries due to their rigidity, insulation and temperature resistance. They are also suitable in making materials for industries which deal with chemicals, since they are chemical and corrosion resistant.


Silicone ranges from very soft and flexible to hard and stiff. It is best applicable in manufacturing of heat resistant and waterproof products. It can be easily to colored and it does not shrink during molding. It is also applicable in making chemical resistant prototypes.


Rubber is an ideal material to use because it can be used with colored resins to create translucent, colored rubbers. This is efficient in forming visualization prototypes or show models. Rubbers can also be made to be as flexible or rigid as possible, depending on the needs of the prototype. For example, rubber can be made hard to increase the durability of parts and models.

The main factors to consider while picking a prototyping material are durability, the ability to withstand different conditions such as heat and chemical reaction, appearance and aesthetics of the final product, the malleability of the material and the cost of the material. It is imperative to use the right material during prototyping in order to produce high quality products and to avoid incurring losses as a result of mass production of defective products.

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