What is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is the automatic construction of physical objects using 3D model data. With additive manufacturing technology, physical models are produced by laying down successive layers of material. Currently, rapid prototyping techniques are widely used in:

  • Industrial design
  • Manufacturing individualized products in small numbers
  • Architecture, engineering and construction (AEC)
  • Aviation and automotive industries
  • Sculpting arts
  • Geographic information systems
  • Education
  • Medicine

A number of techniques are used for rapid prototyping. Their main differences between them are found in the building technology and the base materials.

  • Selective laser sintering (SLS): thermoplastics or metal powders
  • Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS): any alloy metal
  • Fused deposition modelling (FDM): thermoplastics, eutectic metals
  • Stereolithography (SLA): photopolymers
  • Laminated object manufacturing (LOM): paper
  • Electron beam melting (EBM): titanium alloys
  • 3D printing: various materials


Rapid Prototyping and Medicine

In medicine, rapid prototyping has been and can be utilized in a number of ways:

  • Industrial design of new medical devices and instruments, such as retractors, scalpels, etc.
  • Production of customized devices, prosthetics, and implants, such as hearing aids, hip prostheses, replacement teeth, etc.
  • Surgical planning, especially in craniofacial and orthopedic surgeries.
  • Manufacturing biologically active implants and tissue engineering.
  • Production of replicas of normal and abnormal body parts for teaching.

In pediatric cardiology, rapid prototyping can be utilized in the following ways:

  • Guidance for surgery and interventional procedures.
  • Prototyping of tailored implants
  • Patient and family education
  • Teaching- Gross normal and pathological anatomy
  • Simulation of imaging, surgical and interventional procedures
Challenges in rapid prototyping:
  • Artifacts related to cardiac and respiratory motion
  • Complex segmentation processes
  • Continuous motion of thin valve structures
  • Requirement of image fusion
  • Models with consistency close to real myocardial consistency