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What’s in a Name?

April 27, 2003

Filed under: additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 14:11

Some individuals in the RP industry believe that the term “rapid prototyping” does not sufficiently describe RP technology and feel that a new name would be better. Alternative names that have been used for more than a decade are solid freeform fabrication, automated fabrication, and layer manufacturing. The term “3D printing” is used frequently to describe office-friendly methods of RP that turn out inexpensive concept models. I like this term because it describes the process (versus the application) that most people can understand. 

In the future, a large printer company will likely enter the industry with a product and product name (such as PlasticJet) that becomes popular. If it becomes highly successful, people will begin to use this product name in the same way people use “Kleenex” to refer to a facial tissue. So, it’s my belief that someday, 3D printing or a new product name, such as PlasticJet, will overshadow the use of the term rapid prototyping. For now, the RP term is working fine, so why try to force a change when most people in the RP industry understand what it means? If you would like to see a new term replace rapid prototyping, relax. It will occur in time on its own.