Rapid Prototyping

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Rapid Prototyping was termed because of the process this technology was designed

to enhance or replace. Manufacturers and product developers used to find prototyping

a complex, tedious, and expensive process that often impeded the developmental

and creative phases during the introduction of a new product. RP was found

to significantly speed up this process and thus the term was adopted. However, users

and developers of this technology now realize that AM technology can be used for

much more than just prototyping.

Significant improvements in accuracy and material properties have seen this

technology catapulted into testing, tooling, manufacturing, and other realms that are

outside the “prototyping” definition. However, it can also be seen that most of the

other terms described above are also flawed in some way. One possibility is that

many will continue to use the term RP without specifically restricting it to the

manufacture of prototypes, much in the way that IBM makes things other than

business machines and that 3M manufactures products outside of the mining

industry. It will be interesting to watch how terminology develops in the future.

Where possible, we have used the term Additive Manufacturing throughout this

book as the generic word for the suite of technologies covered by this book. It

should be noted that, in the literature, most of the terms introduced above are

interchangeable; but different terminology may emphasize the approach used in a

particular instance. Thus, both in this book and while reading other literature, the

reader must consider the context to best understand what each of these terms means.

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