TWI Industrial Member Report Summary 620/1997
H J Powell
Report on a technology overview carried out under TWI exploratory funding.
Rapid prototyping (RP) is a descriptive term for the generation of solid models directly from 3D computer data. The techniques used build up the model in the form of fine layers (as opposed to removing material from a solid), and are relatively recent. RP is seeing increasing commercial application as part of cross-industry sector efforts aimed at reducing product introduction lead-times and increasing company competitiveness.
Furthermore, development of these techniques for improved accuracy and material properties has led to the term 'rapid manufacture' (RM), which not only covers the direct manufacture of realistic prototypes suitable for performance testing, but also the whole concept of low-volume production with minimal lead-times.
This report reviews the reported business benefits for RP, the general principles involved and each of the commercial systems, including; stereolithography, solid ground curing, selective laser sintering, laminated object manufacture, and fused deposition modelling.