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Taking Advantage of Faster Rapid Manufacturing Technologies

SpecialChem / Nov 30, 2007

Rapid prototyping, in its different forms, is now widely used for both aesthetic and functional assessments, and today's 3D printers are sufficiently accurate and affordable that companies can justify having one (or more) in their design offices. But rapid manufacturing has been rather slower to become widely accepted, even though there were early adopters that made excellent use of the systems that were available, particularly for investment casting (also known as 'lost wax' casting). In the last year or so, however, more and better rapid manufacturing equipment and materials have become available, and industrial users are increasingly taking advantage of the benefits available, including reduced time, simpler customisation, and lower costs. BMW has adopted rapid manufacturing not for vehicle components but for jigs and fixtures used during assembly and test operations. Compared with traditional items machined from aluminium and polyamide, jigs and fixtures built from ABS using fused deposition modelling (FDM) are much lighter and can have ergonomically superior forms.

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