As rapid prototyping technologies improve in accuracy and reliability so the range of applications increases. A number of new systems have recently come on the market and already established systems are showing significant improvements in the materials being used. The systems available appear to be focused on two distinct market sectors. Machines are being used as design office support facilities or “desktop” manufacturing units. Machines are also being used as “shopfloor” systems, concentrating on downstream activities. Suggests that one future for this technology is side‐by‐side with conventional machine tools as one of the process route options for a manufacturing company. One way of achieving this may be to integrate industrial robotics with the technology in the form of flexible manufacturing (or rapid prototyping) cells.
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