Rapid tooling: the state of the art

Producing tooling directly from CAD models is regarded as an important method of reducing the cost and time to market for new products. This paper describes the role otechnology inhttps://machiningtoday.com/increasing the speed of tooling development. A comprehensive review of examples of rapid tooling indicates a major shift in tooling practice. This new trend in manufacturing based on rapid prototyping and rapid tooling has already had a dramatic impact on the engineering environment. New market realities require faster product development and reduced time to market. They also demand higher quality, greater efficiencies and cost reductions, and an ability to meet environmental and recycling objectives. Over the last 10–15 years this has resulted in a remarkable transformation that can be summarized by the concept of world class manufacturing (WCM). The basic theses of WCM are as follows: (i) total quality, (ii) concurrent engineering, (iii) short manufacturing lead-times, (iv) flexibility to accommodate rapid changes in product volume and model mix and (v) all employees are engaged in continuous product and process improvement. This basic framework is now accepted by all companies aspiring to be world-class manufacturers [1].

Most objectives of WCM are related to product and process development. Product development starts from the creation of a 3D computer model using a CAD system. At that stage the product geometry is defined and its aesthetic and dimensional characteristics are verified. This product and process development can be supported by suitable CAE programs. These programs cover a wide range of engineering software for predicting product performance and for the simulation of manufacturing processes without the need to produce physical prototypes. Although CAE programs are intended to ensure that unsuitable designs are rejected or modified, in many cases a visual and physical evaluation of the real component is needed. This often requires prototype tools to be produced.

Creating tooling for prototype and production components represents one of the most time consuming and costly phases in the development of new products. It is particularly problematic for low-volume products or rapidly changing high-volume products.

To reduce the product development time and reduce the cost of manufacturing, the new technology of rapid prototyping (RP) has been developed, which offers the potential to completely revolutionize the process of manufacture. This technology encompasses a group of manufacturing techniques, in which the shape of the physical part is generated by adding the material layer-by-layer. Many of these techniques are based on either the selective solidification of the liquid or bonding solid particles. Although RP techniques are still in their development phase, they are considered a major breakthrough in production engineering [2].

RP technology allows the production not only of models and prototypes for visualization purposes, but also of functional parts. This paper describes a new group of RP applications that covers the production of prototype and production tooling. These new applications are hereafter referred to as rapid tooling (RT) techniques.

There now follows a brief introduction to RP technology and the main RP techniques. The bulk of this article is a comprehensive review of various RT applications. This will be concluded with a more general discussion.

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