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Rapid Tooling and Rapid Manufacturing


With the help of prototypes, people could save much time and money during product design process. By producing prototypes, more designs and tests could be conducted in a short period of time. And people could identify potential manufacturing problems caused by design in product design process. So, building prototypes does not only speed up the whole design process, but also likely improve the quality of design.

Rapid Tooling


Rapid tooling provides potential improvements to the mold design such as complicated channels. But some limitation still exists in using rapid tooling. Secondly operations are needed as additive fabrication doesn’t offer high accuracy or finishes of machining. Additive fabrication processes have smaller part size limitations and can’t produce very large tooling. Parts produced by rapid tooling don’t have less durability than machining does. So, rapid tooling is only used for low-to-medium volume productions. Additive fabrication processes have smaller part size limitations and are unable to produce very large tooling. 


The most common method of Rapid Tooling uses additive processes to build the tooling indirectly by creating a pattern. In these processes, a pattern is traditionally made from wood, plastic, or soft metal and used to form the mold. Additive fabrication offers a fast alternative for creating these patterns, which can be re-used and offer similar properties to wood or plastic patterns. Another type of rapid tooling is direct tooling, which is the use of additive fabrication to directly produce the mold without the need for a pattern. As the additive technologies improve, direct rapid tooling is possible. For example, SLS and EBM have been used to directly build metal molds which could produce hundreds of thousands of parts.


Rapid Manufacturing is a new application for additive fabrication. This process is not suitable for large scale production because of limitations in the mechanical properties and surface finishes. But with the improvements to additive technologies and materials, most additive processes are capable of producing end-use products out of plastics, metals, composites, and ceramics. Rapid manufacturing offer many cost benefits. Additive fabrication does not require any tooling which cost much time and money for molding and casting processes. Additive processes cost less labor compare to traditional processes as part are built directly from the CAD model and the process is automated. The labor costs are attributed to the setup process, which is less significant with higher volume productions. 

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