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Does Rapid Tooling Have a Future?

June 15, 2003

Filed under: additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 08:08

Some believe it does not. Indeed, the group of methods and technologies loosely labeled as “rapid tooling” has struggled. Several are on “life-support” while others have all but disappeared. Still others have remained in the R&D phase and may never become commercially available. 

Not all is dismal, however. Some of the companies that offer direct metal deposition are doing fine. One of the advantages of direct metal is the production of high-performance tooling using copper alloy cores and hard mold surfaces. Ford has sputtered with its Sprayform process, but Praxair is moving it ahead impressively. RSP Tooling, with its steel spray process, has received strong backing from Belcan Corp. and is on track, especially for forging and die cast tooling. 

So, be careful not to conclude that rapid tooling may never meet expectations. It is true that CNC machined tooling has improved dramatically over the past few years, but don’t rule out some of the unconventional approaches to toolmaking, especially for niche applications. There’s riches in niches.