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Will the A/E/C Industry Adopt RP?

May 18, 2003

Filed under: additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event — Terry Wohlers @ 17:01

I have long felt that the architectural/engineering/construction industry would use rapid prototyping when prices fall and the technology improves. A/E/C models have been produced with RP, but they represent less than 1% of the total built. The data format that most use in A/E/C has also been an obstacle. Construction drawings are the standard for communicating design intent with builders and other contractors and the digital representation of these drawings do not carry the information needed to construct a physical prototype using an RP machine. Some in A/E/C create 3D CAD models, but they are the exception. These models are usually not fully closed, water-tight (solid) models required by RP systems.

I attended COFES2003 last week in Scottsdale, Arizona. (COFES is The Congress of the Future of Engineering Software.) I sat in on an A/E/C session that debated the pros and cons of designing and communicating in 2D versus 3D. It became clear that the A/E/C industry has not progressed much in its transition from 2D to 3D over the past several years, compared to manufacturing. I asked the group: If scaled, physical models were free, would that motivate A/E/C professionals to design in 3D? The question received a lot of reaction from this vocal group of about 35 individuals, so I was hoping for some consensus. Instead, I heard a range of comments that made me wonder whether this industry would ever be ripe for RP. I did learn that as a whole, the group is not up-to-date on the advances in RP. However, it is my belief that A/E/C professionals will warm up to RP in the future, but it could take many years—possibly a decade—before A/E/C becomes a hot market for rapid prototyping.