Rapid Prototyping Technologies Enhance Innovation Opportunity

For those involved in product development, engineering, and other shape-making applications, rapid prototyping (RP) technology can provide a great deliverable for a variety of applications. Prototyping can be used for concept generation, ergonomic testing, test adjustments, functional testing, and even small batch production.

There are various rapid prototyping technologies available, including Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (STL), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and 3D printing. Each of these technologies has advantages and disadvantages.

Fused deposition modeling technology is marketed by Stratasys, which also owns a registered trademark on the term. Like most other RP processes, FDM works on an “additive” principle by depositing the material in layers. Plastic filament or wire is unwound from a spool and supplies material to an extrusion nozzle which can turn the flow on and off. The nozzle is heated to melt the material and can be moved in both horizontal and vertical directions by a digitally controlled mechanism, directly controlled by computer aided design software. Similar to stereolithography, the model is built from layers as the material hardens immediately after extrusion from the nozzle.

Stereolithography is an additive manufacturing process using a vat of UV curable liquid photopolymer “resin” and a UV laser to build parts one layer at a time. On each layer, the laser beam traces a pattern in partial section on the surface of the liquid resin. Exposure to UV laser light cures or solidifies the pattern drawn on the resin and adheres it to the bottom layer.

Selective laser sintering is a fast additive manufacturing technique that uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass powders into a mass representing a desired 3D object. The laser selectively fuses the powdered material by scanning cross sections generated from a 3D digital description of the part on the surface of a powder bed. After each cross section is swept, the powder bed is lowered one layer thickness, a new layer of material is applied on top, and the process is repeated until the part is complete.

3D printing is a unique form of prototyping that is rooted in traditional rapid printing technology. A three-dimensional object is created by layering and connecting successive cross sections of material. 3D printers are generally faster, more affordable, and easier to use than other additive manufacturing technologies. While prototyping dominates current uses, 3D printing offers huge potential for retail consumers, especially because the cost of production is lower than other methods and the time to manufacture parts is minimal. In the latest incarnations, 3D color printing is also available. This means that a part can be printed to represent the colors of the finished product, to show the concepts or requirements of the label, or to indicate the results of stress analysis or other analysis of the effects of the mode of stress. failure (FME).

For the most part, all rapid prototype systems require a 3D computer model to start the process. In most cases, a significant amount of file preparation must be undertaken to obtain a file in order to generate a correct rapid prototype model.

As part of the innovation process, some companies may use one or more rapid prototyping technologies in-house. However, being a new “cutting edge” technology, many companies can use service desks to provide their rapid prototyping when the need becomes obvious. Most service desks have detailed websites to market and serve their clients.

A handful of service offices are fairly large companies with many employees and locations. Many provide related services and technologies, such as tooling, industrial design, molding, and production. However, service offices are typically small businesses and although they may be small in size, many are vertically integrated and can provide services ranging from conceptual models to finished functional parts.

Service offices tend to specialize in one or more areas such as injection molding, molding, etc. Sculptors also used technology to produce intricate shapes for fine art exhibitions.

In the near future, the technology of rapid prototypes will become more widespread and even invade the home. For now, however, for fast and expert delivery, using a service desk is the best way for most innovative businesses, individuals and organizations.

Source by Geoffrey Brennan

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