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Concurrent printing and thermographing for rapid manufacturing: executive summary

By Jonathan Hayes


The objective of the work was to develop systems of solid free form (SFF) manufacture capable of being used for mass production as well as for rapid prototyping (RP).\ud \ud Existing commercial RP systems are far too slow for mass production and are limited in the range of materials they can use. This restricts them to specialised applications and the production of prototypes.\ud \ud Literature search, followed by analysis and assessment pointed to printing and thermography as the most suitable technologies for further investigation. A major aim was to take advantage of existing technologies as far as possible. The main components of a prototype system were then analysed in order to identify necessary adaptations and improvements.\ud \ud This generated a number of highly innovative developments that were then combined to produce a system involving concurrent printing, thermographing, annealing, stacking, registering, bonding and height adjustment of coatings (SFF layers) to form parts. To confirm the level of innovation and likely future development, assessment was made of current developments in the field of SFF manufacture and printing. Prospects for commercialisation were identified by reference to extensive market research relating to the system.\ud \ud The concurrency of the system allows it to be substantially faster than commercial systems that are largely consecutive in their modes of operation (between 150 and 800 times faster than an SLA 5000). The use of the thermography allows a high deposition rate of a wide range of materials including thermopolymers, thermosets, metals, ceramics and glass. These advantages make the system very suitable for mass-production.\ud \ud Financially, the system is likely to be relatively inexpensive (around £6,000 compared with £327,300 for an SLA 5000), since it makes use of existing highly developed and readily available technologies. Several of these inventions have been patented and a company, “Rapid Manufacturing Systems Limited” has now been formed to exploit the innovations

Topics: TS, TA
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