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Modern product development is increasingly taking place within virtual environments

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V. : 29 March, 2003  (New Product)
Modern product development is increasingly taking place within virtual environments. The keywords are rapid prototyping, rapid tooling and rapid manufacturing. Behind them lie various technologies that speed up the manufacture of prototypes and functional parts, particularly in low-volume batches.
Rapid prototyping can be employed in very early phases of product development. When used in virtual applications, it provides a useful backup to physical rapid manufacturing techniques. At the EuroMold trade show in Frankfurt, December 3-6, the twelve Fraunhofer Institutes and over 50 research staff represented by the Fraunhofer Network for Rapid Prototyping will be on hand to present new developments in this field.

One highlight is a wireless stylus that enables the free-hand sketching of objects inside a virtual space. This new input tool, designed for developing products in cyberspace, was created in collaboration with the Barski Design Studio, Frankfurt. 'When children want to move a cursor towards the top of the screen, they lift up the computer mouse,' notes designer Olaf Barski. Dr. André Stork of the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD adds: 'The cyber-stylus emulates this natural three-dimensional urge.'

Anyone interested in learning more about advances in rapid technologies should also plan to attend EuroRapid 2003 which opens in Frankfurt two days prior to EuroMold on December 1. This two-day, international conference brings together 200 experts from 15 countries to discuss technologies, solutions and potential applications of practical relevance to the field of rapid product development.

Rapid technologies, which allow physical objects to be built up layer by layer directly from 3D CAD model data, were first conceived over 15 years ago. Meanwhile, there are more than 7,000 different rapid systems deployed worldwide, creating as many as 3 to 4 million objects each year. Industry experts estimate the global market to be worth nearly $700 million annually, with double-digit growth rates. Around 150 small and medium-sized enterprises in Germany use rapid technology processes to supply their industrial customers with a wide variety of product development services. The Fraunhofer Network for Rapid Prototyping is also increasingly being called upon by industry as a consultant and development partner.
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