Rapid prototyping

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History of Rapid Prototyping:

The beginning of rapid prototyping techniques are available in the later eighties and were used for production of prototype and model parts. History of Rapid prototyping can be traced in late sixties, when an engineering professor, Herbert Voelcker, thought himself about the possibilities of doing interesting things with the computer controlled and automatic machine tools. He tried to find a way in which the automated machine tools can be programmed by using the output of a design program of a computer. He developed the fundamental tools of mathematics that clearly explains the three dimensional aspects and resulted in the earliest theories of algorithmic and mathematical theories for solid modeling. They formed the basis of modern computer programs and are used for designing almost all things mechanical, ranging from the small toy car to the tallest skyscraper. In 1987, Carl Deckard, from the University of Texas, came up with a good innovative idea. He pioneered the layer based manufacturing, where he thought of building the model layer by layer. He printed 3D models by using laser light for fusing metal powder in solid prototypes, single layer at a time. Deckard made this idea into a technique called Selective Laser Sintering. The results of this technique were highly promising. Voelcker and Deckard stunning findings, innovations and researches have given extreme momentum to this significant new industry known as rapid prototyping. The industry gave recognition to Charles Hull for patent of Apparatus for Production of 3D Objects by Stereolithography. Charles Hull is known by the industry as the father of rapid prototyping. At present, the computer engineer has to simply sketch the ideas on the computer screen with the help of a design program that is computer aided design. Computer aided designing allows to make modification as required and we can create a physical prototype that is a precise and proper 3D object.

Milestones in AM Development

We can look at the historical development of Rapid prototyping in a variety of different ways. The origins may be difficult to properly define and there was certainly quite a lot of activity in the 1950s and 1960s, but development of the associated technology (computers, lasers, controllers, etc.) caught up with the concept in the early 1980s.

Interestingly, parallel patents were filed in 1984 in Japan (Murutani), France (Andreet al.) and in the US (Masters in July and Hull in August). All of these patents described a similar concept of fabricating a 3D object by selectively adding material layer by layer. While earlier work in Japan is quite well-documented, proving that this concept could be realized, it was the patent by Charles Hull that is generally recognized as the most influential since it gave rise to 3D Systems. This was the first company to commercialize Rapid prototyping technology with the Stereolithography apparatus. Further patents came along in 1986, resulting in three more companies, Helisys (Laminated Object Manufacture or LOM), Cubital (with Solid Ground Curing, SGC), and DTM with their Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) process. It's interesting to note neither Helisys or Cubital exist anymore, and only SLS remains as a commercial process with DTM merging with 3D Systems in 2001. In 1989, Scott Crump patented the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process, forming the Stratasys Company. Also in 1989 a group from MIT patented the 3D Printing (3DP) process. These processes from 1989 are heavily used today, with FDM variants currently being the most successful. Rather than forming a company, the MIT group licensed the 3DP technology to a number of different companies, who applied it in different ways to form the basis for different applications of their Rapid prototyping technology. The most successful of these is ZCorp, which focuses mainly on lowcost technology. Ink-jet technology has become employed to deposit droplets of material directly onto a substrate, where that material hardens and becomes the part itself rather than just as a binder. Sanders developed this process in 1994 and the Objet Company also used this technique to print photocurable resins in droplet form in 2001.The most recent Solido process laminates polymer sheets together rather than the paper sheets used in the original LOM machine. Perhaps this is a better choice of material and perhaps the technology is in a better position to become successful now compared with the original machines that are 20-years old. Another example may be the defunct Ballistic Particle Manufacturing process, which used a 5-axis mechanism to direct wax droplets onto a substrate. Although no company currently uses such an approach for polymers, similar 5-axis deposition schemes are being used for depositing metal.



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