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Rapid Prototyping Materials: The Complete Guide


Rapid prototyping is a technology used to produce high-quality models of 3D designs. It is a unique process that allows you to choose a procedure and materials that suit your needs.

If you are in the manufacturing business, you know how rapid prototyping has transformed the designing and manufacturing sectors. Rapid prototyping services help reduce lead time, enhance production efficiency, and check for errors in your design.

However, everything in rapid prototyping needs to be done right. From the design to choosing materials, you need to ensure you make the right choice for rapid prototyping. Here is a complete guide on the best rapid prototyping materials.

What to consider when you choose the materials?

When choosing prototyping materials, there are several factors you need to consider. Some of the things you need to check to include:

Mechanical properties: One factor you need to consider when choosing rapid prototyping materials is mechanical properties. For example, you need to check how stiff the material is, how it bends and stretches, can it absorb shock, and whether it can break under tension.

It is also important to consider whether the material will deform under long-term stress and if it can tolerate heat temperature.

Manufacturing characteristics: the other essential thing you need to consider is the manufacturing characteristics. The materials used for rapid prototyping are various kinds of metals and non-metal materials.

Appearance: You also need to consider the appearance of the material when choosing rapid prototyping materials. Whether you are in the shoemaking sector or the medical field, the appearance of the material is very important.

Cost: The cost of rapid prototyping materials is another factor you cannot ignore. This is because there are various materials that are available at different prices. For instance, if you want to use metal alloys, the cost is different from non-metal materials.

Common used materials for prototyping

There are many different materials used for prototyping. Some commonly used materials are silicones, urethane resins, glass fiber, carbon fiber, thermoplastics, wood, metal, and many others.

1. Thermoplastics

These are the type of plastics that can be melted, molded, or 3D printed into various shapes. Some of the plastics used include PC, Abs, and others.

Pros of thermoplastics

  • They can be recycled
  • They are durable
  • Thermoplastics can be molded several times
  • They can be molded very fast at a low cost
  • Has a wide variety of properties

Cons of thermoplastics

  • They can easily melt under high heat
  • They incur high tooling costs

2. Metals

The common metals used in prototyping are aluminum and steel. They are strong, readily available, and durable.

Pros of metals

  • They are very strong
  • Well-finished
  • They are well defined

Cons of metals

  • Metal are labor demanding
  • They are done in the subtractive manufacturing process that is high in waste

3. Urethane Resins

Another common prototyping material is Urethane Resigns. It is a material that is poured into a mold to create prototypes.

Pros of Urethane Resigns

  • It is very versatile. This means it can be very elastic, stiff, and hard.
  • It is very durable

Cons of Urethane Resigns

  • It is vulnerable. This means it can leave a rough finish.

4. Silicones

This compound is available in various forms that include resigns, liquid rubber, and solid.

Pros of Silicones

  • They range from stiff and hard to soft and flexible
  • They are temperature resistant
  • They are waterproof
  • They are easily decorated
  • They do not shrink during molding

Cons of Silicones

  • They have high CLTE
  • Sometimes they are very soft

5. Mass Cast Epoxy

Mass Cast Epoxy is another commonly used material for prototyping. It is a thermosetting polymer poured into the cast and left to harden.

Pros of Mass Cast Epoxy

  • It is very hard and durable
  • The material is water-resistant
  • You can mold it into any shape

6. Composite structures

Composite structures are other normally used materials for prototyping.

Pros of Composite structures

  • They are preferred by many because they are non-metallic
  • Great dimensional stability
  • Tooling costs are low
  • They can be carbon-reinforced or glass

Cons of Composite structures

  • The carbon glass is a bit costly than glass
  • Cannot be catastrophic

7. Wood

Plywood is among the few wood-based materials you can use for prototyping. Most people prefer the material because it is affordable.

Pros of Wood

  • It is easy to refine
  • It is cost-effective than other materials
  • It is very flexible

Cons of Wood

  • It can be labor-intensive
  • It is not dimensionally stable like other materials


Choosing the right material is one of the most important steps in prototyping. This is because there are many types of materials used in this process. However, only one material is the best selection for your product. The right adhesive is important, too; visit for versatile options.

Fortunately, you can learn several things about the typically used materials for prototyping. Hence, make sure you choose the best material based on your needs.

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