Think of RP as the right process + the right material = the right part. Do your homework and find a firm you can depend on to help slash prototyping time and costs There's nothing like the rush of a new design idea. Maybe it hit you in the shower or just clicked when you opened that can of tomato soup. You have an idea — and it's your "baby." But of the hundreds of rapid-prototyping (RP) firms that will be vying to make the prototype of your baby, how do you know which to trust? The notion of form following function is only as good as the appropriateness of the RP process and material selected. In other words, only the correct RP process will produce a prototype that acts almost exactly as the product will in the operating environment. • When selecting an RP service bureau, check out its processes, timing, expertise, and customer service. • Designs don't always call for advanced additive technologies. Sometimes a simple approach works better. First, accept the premise that you don't know what you don't know. This helps make it clear that you need to educate yourself and also look for firms that will help educate you. founder Ronald Hollis says, "Designers are too often removed from production processes. But engineers might make adjustments on the factory floor and tooling managers could invent a way to enhance manufacturing efficiencies. Obviously, the more educated the designer, the better. And this goes for innovators as well." Bottom line: Better informed users get better pricing and better solutions. Considerations in selecting an RP service bureau include: processes, timing, expertise, and customer service. Find out whether the service bureau offers the major RP technologies. They are stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), and fused-deposition modeling (FDM). These firms
Products & Services
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Services
Computer-aided design (CAD) services assist in the computerized design, three-dimensional (3D) modeling, and printing and drafting of engineering components and assemblies.
Capacitance meters measure the value of capacitance in circuit elements.
Rapid Prototyping Equipment
Rapid prototyping equipment produces a three-dimensional (3D) paper, plastic, wax, ceramic or metal prototype or pattern.
Rapid Prototyping Services
Rapid prototyping automates the fabrication of a prototype part from a three-dimensional (3-D) CAD drawing. These physical models convey more complete information about the product earlier in the development cycle.
Topics of Interest
The best RP firms educate customers, turn parts around fast, and have a solid business history. Authored by Leslie Gordon, Senior Editor, Alpha Prototypes Inc., Bellingham, Wash., Astro Mfg. Design...
And several tips for picking a vendor. Applications Engineer & Sales Manager The Web site Xpress3D.com lets users select rapid prototypes based on factors such as cost and geographic location.
Selecting the best rapid prototyping (RP) process can be challenging. Without hands-on experience, uncovering both the strengths and weaknesses of a technology can be difficult. Yet, this knowledge is...
An ideal complement to CAD, 3D printing offers a fast, low-cost alternative for building concept and working models. Designed for workstation and network access much like a standard laser printer, 3D...
Manufacturing organizations use RP to produce models and prototypes of injection-molded parts and metal castings that go into everything from copy machines, computers and cellular phones to automobile...