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Rapid prototyping, tooling & manufacturing - state of the industry - Germany

: Blessing, N.

Wohlers, T.T.:
Wohlers Report 2003 : Rapid Prototyping, Tooling & Manufacturing State of the Industry, Annual Worldwide Progress Report
Fort Collins, Colo.: Wohlers Associates, 2003
Book Article
Fraunhofer IPA ()
rapid prototyping; Rapid Tooling; product development; Produktentwicklung; Prototyp; Werkzeugbau

(Volltext) Rapid technologies have grown into a major component in the product development process chain in a wide variety of fields in Germany. The time and money saved using technologies such as rapid prototyping, rapid tooling, and rapid manufacturing is very powerful during the product development process. Also, modern industry is concerned with spare part production and low-volume manufacturing. These days, a widespread network of service providers is established and is continually growing to satisfy the needs and requests of its customers.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing and Automation (FhG-IPA) in Stuttgart, Germany established a user group in 1996. At first, the aim of this group was to describe the different RP technologies and to show how these innovative processes fit into the existing process chains of member companies. Today, the user group is building a platform for communication and information exchange for industrial companies. The group shares new ideas and discusses potential future problems for the technology. The coordination, FhG-IPA, communicates new international trends to the companies. The number of companies has increased form six at the beginning to 10 today.
The European Intelligent Manufacturing Systems Rapid Product Development (IMS RPD 2001) project, coordinated by FhG-IPA, began in 2001 as a follow-up project of the successful IMS RPD project. The consortium consists of six industrial and four academic partners from six different European countries. The proposed length of the project is three years. It is focused on the aspects of development environment. The second topic is the implementation of hybrid prototyping into existing product development process chains. One major goal is to provide software tools (i.e., interfaces) for the communication between physical and virtual prototypes. Another goal is to implement automation into reverse engineering applications. The project will also result in new processes in low-volume manufacturing and new and more competitive methods to manufacture tools (for injection molding, die casting, sheet-metal forming, etc.) to reduce lead times and costs.
In the past few years, computer-assisted product design and engineering technologies such as 3 D CAD modeling, reverse engineering, rapid prototyping, rapid tooling, finite element modeling, simulation tools, etc., have been developed to reduce time to market for new industrial and consumer products. Applying these technologies, several physical parts (design models, different kind of prototypess, first article parts, etc.) need to be scanned during the product development process to generate the required virtual data. Therefore, metrology techniques for volumetric data acquisition have become increasingly important. Furthermore, to improve the quality, reliability, and safety of new products, powerful non-destructive testing devices are required for a fast analysis at any step of the product development process.
Commonly available data acquisition technologies, such as tactile, optical, and destructive, are limited. Industrial computed tomography (CT) is the only non-destructive technique that is able to generate volumetric information, including material properties of parts of any complexity containing inner structures. At FhG-IPA, several projects have been launched to push CT technology and to prepare the technology for integration into industry`s process chains. One of these projects iss the European First Article Tomography Inspection Methodology Advancement (FATIMA) project, coordinated by FhG-IPA. The project ended in January 2003, although a follow-up project is planned.
The Fraunhofer Alliance, a consortium of 12 Fraunhofer institutes and industrial partners, organized the sixth uRapid conference in Frankfurt in 2002. The Alliance was also present at EuroMold 2002 in Frankfurt. Another highlight of EuroMold was the international conference "Worldwide Advances in Rapid and High-Performance Tooling, " with participation by the Global Alliance of Rapid Prototyping Associations (GARPA). The NC Society is the German representative in GARPA.