Visual Models

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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The two main types of visual models that companies use when developing a new project are physical prototypes and virtual prototypes. In the last 20 years, virtual prototypes have emerged as a valid alternative to physical models. At the same time, physical prototyping equipment has matured into computer-controlled production that is capable of producing exact physical models from computer specifications in a matter of minutes.

Virtual visual models include both photo-realistic renderings and 3D computer models of an object or structure. Both types of prototypes (even hand-drawn sketches are technically prototypes) can be created from a computer model of the object, which is usually created using a computer-aided drafting (or CAD) program. Besides creating visual works, the CAD programs can also be used to subject virtual prototypes to a variety of tests, such as aerodynamic tests or stress tests.

Using RP Processes to Create Visual Models

Rapid prototyping is the computer-controlled process of building a physical model using computer-aided design. There are three main types of rapid prototyping processes available: Laminated object modeling, 3D plotting, and stereolithography. The three processes differ in procedure, type of output, and cost.

Laminated object modeling produces visual models by cutting layers of sheeting with a laser and then bonding them together to create a solid object. 3D plotting is similar, but uses a kind of wax built up in sections to create the object. Stereolithography, which is the most commonly used process, builds layers of resin into the shape of an object that are hardened by a laser beam during the final stages of the process.

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