Difference Between 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping

3D Printing

3D Printing

3D Printing

The advancement in technology continues to grow in today’s era. The process of development has evolved and improved because of these advancements. 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping are one of them, and now making a huge difference in the future of development. Amidst the popularity of these processes, it is important to know the definition and difference between 3D printing and rapid prototyping. Thus, it will help you in starting your journey with both of these technologies.

3D printing and Rapid prototyping are interconnected and they are both used in product development. The connections between the two lead to confusion as people assume they are the same. These technologies have similarities as they are both used in additive manufacturing, however, there are important differences to take note of. Here’s a quick guide for you to understand.

Definition of 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping

To deeply understand the difference between the two, we must first know the definition of each one.

3D Printing

Is the process of transforming a digital 3D model into a three-dimensional physical object. It is also commonly known as additive manufacturing. It is the process of layering materials to create an object.

Rapid Prototyping

Is a process wherein creating a model is faster than the usual. The main purpose of rapid prototyping is to evaluate the object’s design and functionality. Common methods are CNC machining, vacuum casting, urethane casting , and 3D Printing. Rapid prototyping can be categorized into two:

  • Low-fidelity - prototype with an initial design of the product

  • High-fidelity - a prototype that matches the final product.

Difference Between 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping

We already know the definition and similarities of 3D printing and Rapid prototyping. We can now understand the difference between them. Here are the important factors that make them different from each other.


3D printing and rapid prototyping have different applications. 3D printing is known in manufacturing for its additive process. It is prominent in producing parts, especially those complex ones which are difficult for traditional manufacturing. With 3D printing, the creation of products is limitless. Moreover, it can combine parts into a whole object compared to traditional manufacturing where it needs to be assembled. This results in a stronger and more durable finished product.

Rapid prototyping, on the other hand, is used for viewing, examining, and evaluating a product. It is mainly used by engineers and designers. It allows them to see the imperfections of the initial design and if the product will be efficient. This is also beneficial to clients who seek improvements on the product. Thus, resulting in a desirable finished product. Rapid prototyping is also recommended to those who want to have mass manufacturing as it can avoid future risks.


The methods for 3D printing and rapid prototyping are different. 3D printing does not require more training than rapid prototyping machines. There are a lot of variables in rapid prototyping to consider and it is not easy to adjust. Also, 3D printing produces parts easily but also depends on the component’s accuracy. It is also much cheaper and faster compared to rapid prototyping. The only downside is the creation of 3D models but one produced, it can create even more than rapid prototyping.


As for the materials, despite the advancement of 3D printing, it has limited materials to choose from than rapid prototyping. The majority of 3D printing materials are limited only to plastics. Oftentimes, 3D printing materials are not always available as rapid prototyping. However, with the advancements in technology, more people are working on the availability of materials in the near future.


Comparing the accuracy of 3D printing and rapid prototyping, the more accurate between the two is rapid prototyping. Finish products of rapid prototyping are more refined compared to 3D printing. This is because rapid prototyping systems are more advanced and have specific technology targeting accuracy. In addition to that, rapid prototyping systems can build larger products since they have chambers that are built for at least 10 inches compared to 3D printers with only 8 inches. Rapid prototyping systems have more space than 3D printing systems.


When it comes to cost, there’s a big difference between 3D printing and rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping can cost higher than 3D printing. Some factors can contribute to the cost of rapid prototyping such as materials, labor, machine maintenance, and many more. On the other hand, 3D printers are easier to maintain than rapid prototyping. Therefore, the cost is lesser and may range from a few thousand per year.


3D printing and Rapid prototyping differ from each other in terms of their applications, methods, materials, accuracy, cost, and a lot more. You can use 3D printing if you want to create and manufacture your brilliant ideas. On the other hand, you can use Rapid prototyping if you want to improve your product and market it effectively. Since these two technologies are continuously growing, it is better to understand the difference between 3D printing and Rapid prototyping. Proper knowledge of their differences is key to being successful in using these technologies.

Experts in 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping

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