Companies large and small are using 3-D prototyping to push the boundaries of innovation
When Ford Motor shows off the latest version of its hybrid car at a show, its drive train and other key parts will be products of a new development process that’s taken hold across
Corporate America and the world.
Rather than using custom machine tools to build early prototypes of new parts, Ford is now using 3-D printing technology to design and test its engineers’ latest ideas. The new method allows product developers to have a prototype in their hands in as little as a week after they create a new design — compared with a previous wait time of three to four months. “We’re building more and more parts every day using this process,” says Harold Sears, a technical expert in rapid manufacturing at Ford’s design facility in Dearborn, Mich
While low-cost 3-D printing by consumers and small businesses looks like a market now poised for take off, large businesses have already embraced advanced versions of the technology. The result has been a significant improvement in the product development process across a wide range of industries, including the manufacturing of cars, consumer electronics, safety equipment and medical devices.
The process has done more than just save time and money. They say rapid prototyping using 3-D printing is producing more innovative, higher-quality products — from custom-fitted bicycle helmets and prosthetics to better-sounding ear buds and loudspeakers.
The proliferation of the technology is creating a growing industry based on 3-D printing, one that includes everything from businesses doing contract prototyping work to high-tech incubators teaching 3-D printing courses to individuals
– (source USA Today)