Rapid prototyping: A new tool to bridge design and manufacturing
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In today's competitive world, the manufactures have to get new and improved products to the market as fast as possible to be able to compete in the global market. The major obstacle for this task had been a long product development cycle, i.e. design, prototype manufacture and testing. The introduction of rapid prototyping (RP) into the early stages of product development has greatly reduced the development time frame and cost involved in prototype manufacturing. Furthermore, RP applications are growing very fast in such a way that it is now possible to produce parts not as prototypes, but as final parts to be used in several engineering applications. Thus, RP is now acting as a bridge to help designers, manufacturing engineers, marketing and sales personnel to timely provide goods to the customer. This paper discusses RP practices and its future trends. This paper also discusses the current developments in this technology to realize its full benefits.