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Rapid Prototyping
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An Introduction to Rapid Prototyping
The ability to rapidly produce accurate, tangible models of products designed on a computer aided design system.
Rapid prototyping is a technology of producing a, 3 dimensional visual prototype or model direct from a CAD file. Rapid prototyping is based on CAD ? computer aided design.

What is Rapid Prototyping?

The term "rapid prototyping" is a relatively new expression for the generation of three-dimensional models manufactured without the need for machining or tooling.
Production of models by machining has a number of limitations:-
1. Material removed during forming is difficult to reclaim.
2. Machining, in the form of drilling, turning, milling, spark erosion etc., is limited by the shapes it can produce.
3. In the event of design change conventional tooling such as patterns, core boxes, dies, jigs etc., become expensive to alter and, in many cases, may require complete re-manufacture.

Rapid prototyping differs by:-
Adding material layer by layer until the desired shape is achieved, immediately reducing or avoiding the loss of material. Cutting out the conventional draftsperson, patternmaker and in some situations even the moulder, the system goes a long way towards reducing time taken and cost and improving accuracy.

The principle advantages of using this technology are: -
1. Speed at which the solid model is generated.
2. The complexity of the model does not form any limitations to its production.
3. The early use of these models was to assist the designer in determining fit and form. It also provided the sales team with a 3 dimensional object to show to a prospective customer, this being far better than the traditional orthographic drawing which many people find difficult to interpret.
4. Concept modeling
5. Aesthetic
6. To make an impossible object.

The Need for a Prototype
It is very difficult, and in many instances impossible, to produce an article that will serve the purpose of use without making modifications to the original shape or general design. There are many examples of design failure that have been the cause of serious injury and costly litigation.
Rapid Prototyping concentrates the mind on getting the product
Right First Time
Other uses for RP models are:-
? Discussion piece.
? Design and fit.
? Assembly capabilities.
? Suitability of mechanical properties.
? Manufacturing process capabilities (forging, casting, pressing, fabrication etc.)

The first rapid prototyping system was developed on to the US model in 1988 and gave the Engg. the opportunity to produce 3 dimensional object from computer aided design (CAD) data.
The development of this technology has reach into many of traditional fields.

The Case for Rapid Prototyping
The prime concern of any management is to maintain and, where possible, improve profitability. We are all aware that profits accrue when income from sales exceed total cost and that profits can be increased by improved sales or reduction in costs, or both.
Many technologies have been developed which have been successful in reducing the labour content, which, in most cases is the major cost.
Rapid prototyping is only some ten years old and is already proving to be a very cost-effective way of producing models/patterns.
There are over 500 SLA machines installed world wide (approximately 20 in the UK) to famous companies such as :-
Ford, General Motors, Rover, Rolls Royce, IBM, Boeing, BAe.
These companies have recognised the power of this technology to boost their profits and competitiveness. Whilst most companies are, understandably, reluctant to reveal the extent to which the technology contributes to their profitability, BAe. claims that one of its systems paid for itself within 5 months. Rover, who bought the largest system available, is already considering the purchase of other system.
Of the 500 systems sold world-wide, about 15% are being used by RP bureaux, operating on a sub-contract basis. In the UK this number is significantly higher at 50%.
All the companies are exploiting the power of RP to increase their profits as discussed below.
Increasing Sales by:-
* Producing visual models for market research, publicity, packaging etc.,
* Getting to market sooner.
* Generating customer goodwill through improved quality.
* Expanding the product range.
* Reducing the cost and fear of failure.
* Visual Models
Consumer product manufacturers find value in having tangible models of their proposed products to show to customers.
IBM used SLA to produce operating display units of its ThinkPad tablet computer for the annual COMDEX show.
Key Tronics, who manufacture computer keyboards, create physical parts for customer approval.
Logitech, the worlds largest manufacturer of pointing devices, was asked, by a "blue chip computer company" to quote on a unique two-button mouse; in less than two weeks from the initial request Logitech?s team returned with a functional SLA prototype. The customer?s reaction was one of ?disbelief '. Part quality was so superior that the computer giant awarded the contract on the spot. It is thought that this single order paid for the SLA system.
Coca-Cola used RP to design the nostalgic (coke bottle) curves into a contemporary 20 ounce plastic Coke bottle.

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