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In the Future, RP will mean Rapid Production

October 26, 2003

Filed under: additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 05:39

The number of RP machines sold each year and the number parts produced from these machines continue to expand. Meanwhile, companies are finding creative ways of applying RP to the manufacture of finished, series production parts in quantities of one to more than 1,000 pieces. This is an interesting market segment that is developing quietly, yet is likely to dominate in the future.

Many companies are trying to reduce product development costs and with this comes a reduction in the number of expensive prototypes. As CAD and simulation tools improve, users are able to do more without the expense of making physical prototypes. Prototypes will not disappear at most companies, but much of this activity will move into the engineering office as 3D printers for concept modeling improve and proliferate. So, rather than employing shop personnel and space to process and finish models, engineers will produce models and prototype parts that are easier and less expensive to produce.

So where does this leave the high-end machines? I believe that these machines will best serve organizations willing to try alternative approaches to expensive tooling for the manufacture of some parts. Already, a number of industries have embraced the idea, including hearing instruments, motor sports, and aerospace. Also, a number of efforts are underway to use RP to custom manufacture consumer products such as lamps and sunglasses. As machine and material technologies develop further, RP will mean rapid production in the future.