RP definition

From: Ian Gibson (igibson@hkucc.hku.hk)
Date: Tue Feb 06 2001 - 05:10:19 EET

Dear all

I see that the main source of confusion is between what is the definition
of 'rapid prototyping' and the definition of a 'rapid prototyping machine'.
In my mind, they are 2 different things.

Rapid prototyping is a means to and end. It is how we get from an original
concept to a final model. There is in fact no need to bring technology into
it at all. Why should we start with a computer-generated model? It is the
best approach in many cases, but some sculptors for example may see it as
an impediment; a barrier in the way of realising their ideas. In that case
they may see a more direct, manual route. RP therefore becomes a
philosophy, an ideal. In that sense, it can be (and is) applied to software
development, PCB construction, even manufacturing plant design.

Rapid prototyping machines are however just that: machines. They are a
technology that uses layer-based fabrication methods to construct models
directly from solid-modelling CAD data without the need for customised
set-ups (at least in theory) or specialised tooling and fixtures. In that
way, they can be distinguished from CNC, EDM, etc. Also there is no problem
with using FFF machines or LM machines as alternative definitions. Except
RP machine is just as good, was first on the block and is the most popular.
Autofab is a superset, that includes RP machinery as well as CNC machining,
robotic machining, etc. and I see no problems with that either.

So in summary, you can use RP machinery, CNC machines, or even a hammer and
chisel to achieve rapid prototyping, so long as you are using the quickest
method available to achieve your objective. With Autofab, you must be using
an automated method. If you are using RP machinery, you are using a
layer-based technology.

So Lex is developing Autofab technology, which can be used for RP, but
which is not an RP machine.


Dr. Ian Gibson
Associate Professor
Dept. Mechanical Engineering
The University of Hong Kong
tel: +852 28597901
fax: +852 28585415
email: igibson@hkucc.hku.hk

It's tragic magic.
There are no coincidences,
but sometimes the pattern is more obvious.

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