The big buzz in the rapid prototyping area is direct digital manufacturing. That is, the machines and materials originally designed to make fast prototypes have improved so significantly in recent years that they are now being positioned to make actual production parts for relatively low volumes. They’re already made an impressive entry into the production of jigs and fixtures used for assembly purposes.
One of the big issues is the ability of the newer equipment to make tolerances approaching, if not comparable to, injection molding processes. A new study from Stratasys shows impressive results. Of 3,888 measurements tested on 144 sample parts, 99.5 percent were within ±0.005 inch (0.13 mm), and 49.9% were within a narrow tolerance band of ±0.001 inch (0.03 mm). Throughout the analysis, only 197 measurements (5.1 percent) exceeded the tolerance specification.
Is that type of accuracy repeatable?
Stratasys says results were consistent among the three Fortus 900mc machines that were tested.
Dow Chemical and several other companies have launched a program in Omaha, Neb. to divert about 36 tons of plastics from landfills in its first phase, and convert it into energy used for cement production.
A make-your-own Star Wars Sith Lightsaber hilt is heftier and better-looking than most others out there, according to its maker, Sean Charlesworth. You can 3D print it from free source files, and there's even a hardware kit available -- not free -- so you can build one just in time for Halloween.
Some next-generation bio-based materials are superior in performance to their petro-based counterparts, but also face some commercial challenges. This is especially true of certain biopolymers, adhesives, coatings, and advanced materials.
Cars and other vehicles, as well as electronics and medical devices, continue to lead the use cases for the new plastics products we've been seeing, as engineers design products for tougher environments.
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