virtual reality (vr) provides another dimension to many engineering applications. its immersive and interactive nature allows an intuitive approach to study both cognitive activities and performance evaluation. market competitiveness means having products meet form, fit and function quickly. rapid prototyping and manufacturing (rp&m) technologies are increasingly being applied to produce functional prototypes and the direct manufacturing of small components. despite its flexibility, these systems have common drawbacks such as slow build rates, a limited number of build axes (typically one) and the need for post processing. this paper presents a virtual assembly rapid prototyping (varp) project which involves evaluating cognitive activities in assembly tasks based on the adoption of immersive virtual reality along with a novel non-layered rapid prototyping for near net shape (nns) manufacturing of components. it is envisaged that this integrated project will facilitate a better understanding of design for manufacture and assembly by utilising equivalent scale digital and physical prototyping in one rapid prototyping system. the state of the art of the varp project is also presented in this paper.