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Growth of Rapid Manufacturing

May 15, 2005

Filed under: additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:44

Tecnologia & Design is an Italian company that used laser sintering from EOS to manufacture hundreds of ski boot buckles. The parts passed fatigue and impact testing and were indistinguishable from conventionally produced buckles. Polishing was automated by abrasive tumbling. The company found that they could manufacture 600 sets of buckles faster and less expensively than with injection molding.

Rapid manufacturing—the direct production of finished goods from additive fabrication—dominated discussions at last week’s Rapid Prototyping & Manufacturing 2005 Conference and Exposition. Many other topics were discussed, but most attendees could not stop talking about the future implications of RM.

According to Wohlers Report 2005, rapid manufacturing is showing an interesting, though not totally unexpected, upward growth trend. Organizations that use additive processes to manufacture end-use parts indicate that activity has increased from 3.9% in 2003 to 6.6% in 2004, and now to 8.2% in 2005. I believe that rapid manufacturing will grow to become the largest application of additive fabrication in the future. The second most popular application will be the production of models from 3D printers for early concept review and design validation. Mainstream prototyping applications—rapid prototyping as we know it—will decline to the number three position.