A comparative study of virtual prototyping and physical prototyping

Ian Gibson*, Zhan Gao, Ian Campbell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The new product development process makes use of both virtual and physical prototypes. There is an increasing need to reduce the time and cost required when converting from one to the other. There is also a potential need to use them both simultaneously. Virtual Prototyping (VP) and Physical Prototyping (PP) are two techniques that have many similar goals, but which achieve them in very different ways. With VP, the approach is to create as precise a numerical model as possible in the easiest possible way, whereas PP creates a physical model. This paper tries to define VP in a sense where it can be compared and contrasted with PP. The most obvious common area is in the early stages of product development, namely conceptualisation. Two different experimental implementations of real-time integration of virtual and physical prototyping are described. A virtual CAD technique is also described that aims to create concept models in an intuitive form that may be suitable for artistic sculptors. A conclusion is made that PP (through the layer-based Rapid Prototyping (RP) technology) and VP are valuable techniques that can join together to form a powerful tool for rapid development of complex products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-522
Number of pages20
JournalInternational journal of manufacturing technology and management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Physical prototyping
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Real-time integration
  • Virtual prototyping


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