ZMorph CEO Przemek Jaworski and Guillermo Parodi,
owner of Draw2CNC, both have their fingers on the pulse
when it comes to what clients need from prototypes.
In his business, Jaworski saw that customers wanted the
most available material, as well as the cheapest, such as
ABS plastic. This allows for versatility and easy printing.
ABS is a good material for prototyping not just because it is
readily available, but also because it can be used for many
different types of pieces.
PLA, a bioplastic based on corn, is also a popular
material. There are a lot of possible setting techniques in
order to refine the part after it is printed. Post-processing
techniques including painting, smoothing, or sanding can
change the appearance and strength of the part, making it
smoother or rougher.
“Very often we can print parts with PLA and then use them
as molds for other types of materials. The actual plastic part
can be destroyed afterward,” Jaworski says. Alternatively, the
original part in this situation can be used as a mold in order
to create another version of the object with another material,
such as ceramics.
3D printing and digital fabricating is useful for prototyping
in other ways too. Objects larger than the surface area of
the printer can be built by assembling parts together using
acetone or adhesives.
Acetone, which is used to smooth out or dissolve the
crosshatched surfaces, can also make melted edges sticky,
enabling different parts to be stuck together. Removing the
part from the printer doesn’t necessarily have to be the last
step, Jaworski says.
By combining 3D printing with subtractive techniques
like CNC machining or laser cutting, there are even more
possibilities. A part that is milled, for example, from aluminum
can be combined with a printed part.
“You get a really, really strong part with some intricacies
of geometry from the part that is 3D printed. So you can
combine intricacy with strength,” Jaworski says.
Jaworski believes that one of the most underappreciated
parts of creating a prototype through 3D printing is acquiring
the 3D geometry. 3D models can be created by either the
client or the printing company using 3D scanners. No matter
what process one is using (CNC milling, 3D printing, or
With the addition of 3D printing to a designer’s arsenal, prototyping becomes quicker
and easier. Current 3D printers can
quickly create models from multiple
materials or from ultra-light plastic.
By Megan Crouse, Real-Time Digital Reporter
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PROTOTYPING
TECHNIQUE FOR YOU