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.