European engineering and manufacturing companies currently spend an estimated 160 m ECU on models, produced by the five or six types of Rapid Prototyping (RP) processes commonly available. In the vast majority of cases, these processes cannot build parts from many common engineering materials and, therefore, the application of these parts is limited to use as nonrepresentative models. One of the principal focuses of current worldwide RTD in the RP field is toward expanding the range of build materials for use with existing processes to include industrially relevant polymers, which will undoubtedly expand the market for polymeric RP models. However, of the 250,000 engineering and manufacturing companies in the EU, it is estimated that 70% are SME's providing metal components to various industrial sector. Hence the potential market for a representative metal prototype is estimated at 500 m ECU. No current RP system can produce representative metal components. Whilst a number of traditional manufacturing routes (primarily investment and sand casting) have been adapted to use polymeric RP models as patterns for metallic component manufacture, these impose limitations in terms of geometric complexity, component accuracy, material properties and lead time. As such they do not represent the most effective route to accelerated metal prototype fabrication. The primary industrial need for this RTD involves the European engineering and manufacturing sector requirement for novel methods of accurate, representative metal prototype fabrication. This facility will improve global competitiveness through the reduction of product development costs and time scales. Hence the primary industrial objective of the proposed RTD is to develop the enabling technology allowing the production of representative metal parts with an accuracy and build time, at worst comparable to existing polymeric RP techniques. The development of such an RP system is expected to provide cost and time savings of at least 30% over conventional manufacturing techniques. In addition, there is a secondary industrial need, in the European tool manufacturing sector, for new and innovative methods of production Injection Mouid Tooling manufacture in order to compete against cost and delivery time advantages currently offered by Pacific Rim and Eastern Bloc competitors. These advantages are recognised by the European moulding industry to be in excess of 25 % and 20 % respectively. The secondary industrial objective of the proposed RTD is to generate reductions of over 40 %, in both cost and delivery time, compared to current Mould Tool manufacturing techniques for components described in the first and second categories. This complements existing and proposed EU RTD relating to the other two categories. Achieving this goal will provide a visible competitive advantage for European SME tooling manufacturers and will largely eliminate Far Eastern and Eastern Bloc competition from the European market place. As European industry cannot hope to compete with labour costs associated with Pacific Rim manufacturing operations, competitive advantage can only be regained by the introduction of new manufacturing techniques which are radically different to tool manufacturing techniques currently standard within the industry.
Funding SchemeCRS - Cooperative research contracts
OX5 1QU Oxford, Kidlington
TF1 4RE Telford
PE15 8NH March
YO6 6DW Kirkbymoorside
LE13 0PB Melton Mowbray - Leicestershire