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3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping in Manufacturing

What is 3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is a technique used to quickly fabricate scale models of a physical part or assembly. This is done using 3D computer-aided design (CAD) data and a three-dimensional printer, or additive layer manufacturing technology. To be clear:

  1. To create a scale model rapid prototype you must
  2. Have a 3D CAD file to then feed to 
  3. A 3D printer to create the prototype


Therefore 3D printing is the manufacturing process and rapid prototyping is one of the applications of a 3D printer. However, there are different types of rapid prototyping. 

Two Types of Rapid Prototyping

  1. Multi-Jet Modeling (MJM) – is a type of rapid prototyping in which a model is created in layers from a 3D CAD file with a print head that has several linear nozzles. The thermoplastics are sprayed as fine drops through a heated print head and polymerized by UV light. After a thin layer is added, the process repeats itself by jetting out additional layers of material until the part is fully formed.

  2. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) – is the most widely used additive manufacturing. It uses thermoplastics to build strong, durable, and stable parts using a layer-by-layer deposition of feedstock plastic through a nozzle. The machine head repeats the extruding and melting, layer by layer until the part is complete. 


The Differences Between the Two

The processes outlined above are obviously different and the characteristics of the parts created via each process will differ as well. The main things to take into account when choosing the right technology:

  • Application – how will you be using the part? While Multi-Jet can create exceptional detail, FDM creates durable end-use products.
  • Material – Multi-Jet can create small features and fine textures that can even be rubberlike. While with FDM you can choose from a variety of plastics to suit the purpose of the product.
  • Aesthetics – If the look of the end product is important again Multi-Jet can provide a level of detail that FDM cannot. Not to say FDM end products don’t look finished, however, it’s important to note the difference.
  • Part Size – Both prototyping processes have size limitations regarding the size of the end product it can create. However, FDM allows you to build parts as large as you need because the design file can be split into multiple pieces, a final bonding of these broken up pieces is then needed to make the larger product.


Our 3D Printers at Sierra Pacific

On our production floor, we have two 3D printing machines a ProJect 3500 HD Max and a Markforged x7. With both a Muli-Jet and FDM printer on hand we are able to create a wide variety of products for clients no matter how complex. In combination with our engineering team, these tools set Sierra Pacific apart allowing us to fulfill all general and specific hardware requests no matter how big or small.


What We Build

The name of the game for us is access hardware and 3Dprinters have changed the way we work. Besides creating standard parts and products for all sorts of industrial and commercial uses we can create custom products when needed and this is where 3D printing plays a huge role in our work.

We can take ideas from concept to prototype to final product in no time. Our history working in traditional access hardware manufacturing has set up to capitalize on this new and innovative technology.


What Can You Make With a 3d Printer?

A timely example of what 3D printers are capable of is right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. To aid frontline workers many businesses have turned from manufacturing and creating their normal products to producing PPE (personal protective equipment) like face masks and shields as well as protective eyewear and more. 

The innovations don’t stop there, 3D printers were being used in healthcare prior to the pandemic. Creating 3D prosthetics and bioprinting are just some of the amazing applications of this new and emerging technology. 

Construction is another industry that has adopted this new innovation using the power of 3D printing to fabricate building or construction components. Some applications in construction include extrusion, power bonding, and additive welding. And outside of the world of business and industry folks have found all sorts of uses for 3D printers creating everything from a driveable working Lamgourbini to unique birdhouses to one of a kind shoe wall mounts


The Future of Manufacturing

No matter the exact application, 3D printing has changed the way we do business in so many industries and the future is more! Learn more about how Sierra Pacific is already implementing this technology to streamline processes and efficiencies, saving time and money in the production of access hardware. Browse 1,000’s of products engineered, prototyped, and built by us using 3D printing.






Sierra Pacific Engineering and Products (SPEP) has earned a reputation for industry-leading quality over the past 30 years. Part of the secret to our success has been our 100% employee-owned structure, giving each worker a direct stake in the results of our work. We have also fostered excellent results through our intensive hardware quality control processes. SPEP’s highly trained & knowledgeable staff follow advance product quality planning procedures and utilize Oracle Quality for an integrated quality management system to collect and analyze critical quality data. Top of the line Mitutoyo Quick Vision (QVA) and optical inspection equipment is used for measurement inspection along with statistical data analysis to support all first article, production approval, and continuing conformance demands. SPEP also utilizes state-of-the-art Rapid Prototyping and manufacturing processes to develop unique attribute gaging to assist with product inspection. Another key contributor to our success is continuity with testing processes using the same equipment in our Corporate lab and worldwide production facilities to validate strength and load performance, corrosion and salt spray testing, and material and finish examination. All these quality capabilities bundled within our ISO certified system demonstrates SPEP is committed to providing quality product to our customers.

Quality Controls in Manufacturing

We apply rigorous quality controls to our production process. Our reputation in the access hardware industry is built upon our consistent quality. We take that very seriously with efficiencies to ensure that every part meets our quality requirements.

Every part we manufacture is put through an intensive testing process during the design phase to ensure that it is the optimal solution for the job. Using the requirements and specifications set forth during development, we establish item-specific parameters for our quality control and assurance program.

Our success in delivering quality parts has helped us to earn a 99.5% “would recommend” rating from our customers. We work hard to ensure that you can always count on SPEP for world-class, quality parts.

Quality Certifications and Standards

ISO 9000 is a family of standards set by the International Organization for Standardization that help govern the quality of products. Many hardware products are affected by ISO 9000 standards. Furthermore, countries around the world use these standards as part of their regulatory practices. If you purchase a product that has been registered to the relevant ISO 9000 standard, you have certain assurances that you will receive a reliably high-quality product.

The related ISO 9001 is the set of requirements that organizations must fulfill to meet the ISO 9000 family standards. SPEP is ISO 9001:2015 certified. This means that we have a sound quality management system based on industry best practices.

When you are sourcing components for your products, it is important to work with a certified supplier because the quality of your parts affects the quality of the final product. There is a growing trend that all suppliers must adhere to the standards set by ISO.

Additionally, SPEP produces many parts that are UL Listed and Recognized. These nationally recognized safety standards are meant to help protect consumers, workers, and others. They also give our customer’s products a valuable competitive advantage.

SPEP’s Commitment to Quality Hardware 

At Sierra Pacific Engineering and Products, quality is everything. We relentlessly pursue the best possible quality for our products from the simplest chest handle to a patented latch system. We have worked hard to earn relevant certifications and registrations because we want you to be as confident in our quality as we are.

We know that you need parts you can rely on. Contact us at any time to learn more about our hardware quality control methods. We are also happy to identify the specific standards that a given product adheres to. Let us show you how important quality is to our team.







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