Watch: Introduction to Rapid Prototyping

Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:

A hot topic these days is those inexpensive RP (rapid prototyping) machines for the home market. But that does not change the reality that the majority of humans, especially CFOs, know as much about what the term “rapid prototyping” means for design, engineering, and manufacturing as the House of Representatives does of the word “decorum.” Today’s Check It Out on-demand webcast is for all of you needing a teachable thing to help drag your company’s holdouts into this century. It’s also for all of you doing the metrology work and trying to convince the skeptics that a virtual part on screen is really only a simulation of the real world. And, as audience polling in this webcast demonstrates, this webcast is also for all of you who need to fill in the blanks with this whole rapid prototyping-reverse engineering process.


“Introduction to Rapid Prototyping” is a 54-minute webcast produced by Faro. Yes, Faro, the makers of world-class developers of portable CMMs (coordinate measuring machines) 3D imaging devices, and related metrology software. It’s a complete A-to-Z tour of RP, from what it is to what it can do. It explains what you need to have to get going and where it is all heading. It’s vendor-neutral, and metrology is discussed as a technological peer that can enhance your rapid prototyping workflows.

This is a sober, engineer-to-engineer presentation. No pom-poms here. Still, it is not an in-depth technical affair. It is, however, thorough, and that’s its strength. See, it provides just enough technical data so that people in engineering or manufacturing organizations can plainly see what RP brings to the table, most especially the inter-relationships among CAD, RP, and reverse engineering. They will leave with knowledge of where 21st Century engineering and manufacturing is at and where it is heading. The “compare this to your joint” part is left unspoken, but it is the elephant in the bit stream. Room. Whatever. You get it.

The webcast begins with a quick overview of some major RP technologies, such as FDM (fused deposition modeling), SLS (selective laser sintering), and SLA (stereolithography). It approaches these discussions first from a technology’s theory then its practice. For example, in the SLS section, voxels and their importance to RP in general are explained. SLS hardware technology is displayed, and how it goes about additive manufacturing explained broadly. A bit later when FDM is the focus, the commonalities between its processes and those in SLS are drawn. The big differences in execution and practices are where the emphasis is, and rightly so.

From that foundation, the presentation moves quickly through what can be done with RP, such as concept modeling and functional prototypes. It lingers a bit on the key capability of RP to produce parts you cannot produce in traditional milling, cutting, lathing ways—things like opposing drafts and assemblies.

The working relationship of RP, metrology, and reverse engineering are next up. Laser tracking and articulating arms are explained as is turning the scanned data into a CAD model that’s then printed in 3D. This segues into a brief look at some lesser-known technologies, such as EBM (electron beam melting) and shaped metal deposition, the latter of keen interest in aerospace. Finally, stitching it all together, you get a case study presentation from Pratt & Miller Corvette Racing on how it uses RP technologies to build a better motorsports contender.

Faro earns an A-Plus here for making a manufacturer-agnostic presentation, and that sentiment includes the discussions of reverse engineering, their strong suit. Frequent audience polling throughout the webcast bears out the correctness of this decision as well as hammers home the reality of what’s happening out there. Simply put, people sometimes need basic information as much as they need in-depth details. The strength of the webcast is the former. It does a yeoman’s job servicing that void.

Thanks, Pal.  – Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood

Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering

Watch: Introduction to Rapid Prototyping

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About the Author

Anthony J. Lockwood's avatar
Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Digital Engineering’s founding editor. He is now retired. Contact him via [email protected].

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