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Just How Feasible is Rapid Manufacturing?

SpecialChem / Apr 9, 2008

Rapid production, now economically feasible in only a few specialised situations, could soon allow routine direct production of functional plastic parts in small quantities, and on a custom basis without any intervening prototyping steps. Aircraft are rarely, if ever, produced in model runs exceeding a few hundred. Plastics components unique to those models could eventually be produced by rapid production techniques much as models, prototypes or patterns are now. In one example, Boeing has used selective laser sintering equipment and glass-filled nylon materials to build several dozen copies of a small part for the international space station. The parts would otherwise have been made by injection moulding, at considerable tooling cost. Eventually, when the rapid production units are so affordable that they are as common as personal computers are today, they might be used to produce one-off versions of, for example, a kitchen tap replacement washer, with data downloaded for a small fee from the Internet.

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