The Growth of Rapid Prototyping

by Todd McDonald on November 8, 2012

Here in Youngstown 
Here in Youngstown 
Sweet Jenny I’m sinkin’ down 
Here darlin’ in Youngstown 

This is the chorus of Bruce Springsteen’s 1995 single, Youngstown – a tragic narrative about the meteoric rise and fall of the steel industry in the title city. The Ohio town, once famous for its bustling steel mills has since been left behind, taking up the depressing role of the “poster child for economic atrophy.”

But things in Youngstown, and in the plastics industry as a whole, are shifting once again.

How?

In her Plastics News article, Rapid Prototyping Winning Recognition, Angie DeRosa explains a new White House initiative, one aimed at boosting manufacturing by utilizing $30 million in federal funding to test additive manufacturing, here in Youngstown.

Also known as rapid prototyping, this new technological process allows users to create 3D products via printing. Just like turning a picture on a computer into a printed image, these new printers allow manufacturers to quickly develop 3D products, rather than simple 2D graphics. While originally used in the aerospace and automobile industries, this new technology is now making its way into consumer goods, from prosthetic legs to replacement knobs for synthesizers. And while some of these unique consumer uses are gaining traction, the growth of rapid prototyping is especially clear in the plastics and medical markets.

Since we primarily operate in these two sectors at TEQ, we purchased a 3D printer this past year, which utilizes the fused disposition modeling (FDM) process for rapid prototype production. This machine allows us to create real-life representations of trays for customer review and fit testing – saving time and money while solving design challenges upfront, increasing our overall efficiency.

It’s just one of the ways we guarantee the form, fit and function of every design and consistently produce high-quality products to our customers’ exact specifications.

With such a wide variety in application, how is your industry or business taking advantage of rapid prototyping?

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