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3D printing as a rapid prototyping technology by Fabiola Groshan

3D printing as a rapid prototyping technology by
Article Posted: 03/26/2012
Article Views: 59
Articles Written: 9448
Word Count: 542
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3D printing as a rapid prototyping technology

Many people may not have yet heard of rapid prototyping, but the concept has actually been around since the late 1980s, when the techniques were first used to construct physical objects, models and prototypes, through the use of additive manufacturing technology. Ever since, the technology spread its use wider and wider and today it has applications in a variety of fields and areas, from manufacturing small amounts of production-quality parts to sculpture exhibitions.

The technologies used in rapid prototyping are also quite diverse and range from laser sintering to 3D printing, which works on various materials. The process practically consists in transforming the virtual design from a computer into thin, horizontal cross sections that overlay until the physical model is identical use the virtual one. The process however may not be as rapid as the name suggests. Even with the latest of technologies, creating the physical model may take several hours as well as it may take several days. There are many factors that impact the time of the construction, such as the method uses, the size of the model you want to create or its complexity, as well as the tools and machines used.

As mentioned above, there are numerous technologies available when it comes to this type of prototyping, all of them being additive technologies. The difference however consists in the way in which layers are built. For example, there is the Selective Laser Sintering technology, also knows as SLS and which works with thermoplastics and metal powders, or the Fused Deposition Modelling technology (FDM), which works with thermoplastics and eutectic metals, that both use melting and softening of the material in order to create the layers, while several others use liquid materials. Another technology is the LOM, which stands for Laminated Object Manufacturing and works mainly with paper, where the layers are thinly cut, shaped and then joined together.

The 3D printing technology creates three dimensional objects based on digital designs with the use of a special printer. It is a technology that has recently been more and more associated with rapid prototyping and has been used in various industries, such as architecture, automotive, footwear, jewellery, industrial design, engineering and construction, as well as the dental and medical field, education, civil engineering and aerospace. It has a wide range of applications, from CAD and design visualisation to reconstructing body parts for forensic use or fossils and artefacts in archaeology and palaeontology.

Nowadays, everybody can make use of the 3D printing technology and the artistic field makes no exception. Festivals and expositions have been making room for this new form of artistic expression, ever since the 2011 London Design Festival, which took place at the Victoria and Albert Museum, housed an installation that was based on this technology and was called “Industrial Revolution 2.0: How the Material World will Newly Materialise”.

All things considered, rapid prototyping is a major improvement when it comes to creating physical models from virtual designs and it can be used in various fields and industries, whether through the 3D printing technology or the many several other, depending on the specific needs.

For more resources regarding rapid prototyping or even about 3D printing and especially about please review these pages.

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