Status quo with a look into the future


Generative production procedures at the Rapid.Tech 2011

Acceleration is nowadays a fundamental feature of economics and technology. This particularly also applies to the relatively new additive production procedures, in which workpieces are not created by removing material but instead by adding it. Firstly, these new methods shorten the production times, and secondly they are themselves undergoing rapid progress and in many sectors are now ready for industrial application. This year's Rapid.Tech, which took place in Erfurt from the 24th to 25th May, for the eighth time, provided a good overview of the state of additive manufacturing (AM) and its current trends.

On these two days, around 1,200 fair visitors and conference attendees visited a wide variety of lectures and found out abut the latest machines, software, measuring technology and possible applications, among other things, at the 56 fair stands. The three specialist forums, the user's conference and the design engineers' day made it clear that this technology offers many industries ways that either lead to the goal more quickly than conventional procedures or produce results that are not even achievable with them.

Those participating in the user's conference repeatedly looked at the question of how processes could be optimised. The most important aspects here are quality assurance and the opportunities to be found in the combination of procedures.

The focus of the "Aviation" specialist forum, being held for the first time, included the requirements for materials. During a flight, these are of course many and varied: for example, the materials must be able to withstand extreme temperature differences as well as strong fluctuations in air pressure and also be compatible with other materials.
The specialist forum "CAD/CAM and Rapid Prototyping in Dental Technology“ showed the progress made in the applications of additive procedures in dental technology. The high degree of workpiece precision that is now possible places extremely high demands on quality assurance, because every work step also brings possible sources of errors.

Another area into which generative production procedures have long since found their way is that of medical technology. The specialist forum with that name presented the expanded functions and financial advantages of generatively manufactured implants. The increase in biometric digital data indicates a trend towards individual mass customisation.

The potentials of additive procedures were also discussed by those participating in the design engineers' day. This did not just concern the development of prototypes, but also how the new procedures can find their way into new growth industries. In addition to this, case examples were used to explain how the later manufacturing process is already influenced in the design phase.
Kai Ondratschek from the University of Stuttgart won the STUDENT DESIGN AWARD for Rapid Manufacturing for his mobile robot "ArachNOphobia“, which bionically adapts the principle of motion of the spider. In dangerous environments, it can play an important role as an exploratory tool in visual reconnaissance, and the gathering and analysis of data.

The next Rapid.Tech trade fair and user's conference for rapid technology will be taking place on the 8th and 9th May 2012.

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