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Content archived on 2024-05-29

Development of an innovative, modular rapid prototyping system for rigid and flexible models (FLEXRAP)


Rapid prototyping techniques are an important tool for a fast and efficient development of a product. It allowsJa short time-to-market and better design and quality of the product. In this way it enhances the competitiveness. Different RP-techniques are on the market but the threshold to use it especially to SMEs is still very high since there is no high quality technology available at a reasonable price. Also the mechanical properties of the RP model is limited to rather hard materials. Also the techni que is not widely accepted yet is that it cann10t be used in an office environment and special skills are needed for the high end RP-techniques. Availability of a flexible RP-technology that is easy to use (in an office environment) and gives high quality models for a low price and with the possibility to have different types of (also soft) materials would mean a breakthrough in the RP market. It would e.g. be a big asset for the SMEs in the toy and shoe sector at the moment the import limitations for g oods from south-east Asia is relieved (in 2005) Although many types ofRP-machines are available the Objet technology is best suited as a starting point for the development of such a technology. The technology demands very specific resins. The resin form ulations have to comply with the proprietary Ink-jet technology that jets the formulation at high temperature. -The resin formulations have to show fast cure under V.Y.-illumination -The final mechanical properties must be good In the Objet technology a model material and a support material is used. First the present model material will be optimised so it gains properties comparable with commodity or engineering polymers. At the same time and a support material and removal method will be developed by w hich the support can is removed so easily that the building of a RP-model can take place in an office environment. Next a material will be developed that shows rubber-like properties. This makes it possible to make rubbery RP models in a cost-effective way. The objet technology in principle should be able to allow the use of more than one model material. To explore this possibility an experimental apparatus will be build with the possibility to print two model materials and a support material. This kin d of technology is also a first step in the direction of a rapid manufacturing technology. The potential applications of this technology are investigated Case studies will be made regarding applications in the foundry, automotive, toy and shoe industry. Training programs are prepared to allow the easy introduction of the technology in the shoe and toy industry.


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