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Paul T Kidd's Rapid Prototyping Technologies Pages

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Rapid Prototyping Cuts Development Costs

Rapid Prototyping Cuts Development Costs


The following article by Paul T. Kidd appeared in Automotive International, Issue 41, July/August, 1997


London - Rapid prototyping technology is being used extensively in the automotive industry to reduce both the time consumed and the cost of new product development.

Applications of these new technology have found favour in both large and small firms. Time savings on prototyping parts vary, ranging from 60 to 80 percent reductions when compared to conventional methods for producing prototype components.

Cost savings are less clear cut, owing to the problems of establishing meaningful data for comparison purposes. However, the potential for cost saving lies in several areas, including early identification and elimination of costly design mistakes.

Another significant area where costs can be reduced is in the amount of labour involved in producing models, tooling and prototype parts - typically very labour intensive and time consuming activities.

The technology consists of processes for quickly transforming three dimensional computer-aided design models into physical models made of various materials.

These models can then be used to produce tooling using secondary from which functional prototypes can be manufactured.

The pace of technological development in this field has been quite rapid. Back in 1988 there was only one process - stereolithography - but now several different processes are available. In the near future it will become possible to directly manufacture metal components which will eliminating the need for tooling.

Several business objectives can be significantly improved by using rapid prototyping technologies such as marketing new products, manufacturing flexibility; and new product development.

The key to applying these technologies for competitive advantage lies in innovative use. This involves using the technology not only to deliver time and cost saving improvements but also to explore new fields which previously might have been impossible or uneconomic.

While the pursuit of time and cost reductions are both clear business objectives, it is evident that by using rapid prototyping in more innovative ways, firms can gain more significant benefits.


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