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This eBook is of most value to leaders of machine shops trying to balance the adoption of new technologies with the potential disruption they can cause.


Over the course of the last decade, the pendulum of design cycles has swung hard in the direction of virtual tools. Given the circumstances, that trend was justified. Digital prototyping offered a means to quickly check the form, fit and function of designs. It provides demonstrable advantages over building physical prototypes, which were costly in terms of both time and money. Furthermore, virtually checking the performance of designs affords faster iterations earlier in the development process. Design cycles are accelerated.

However, over the past few years, the pendulum of design cycles has started to swing back the other way because of new technological advantages. 3D Printing, the idea of laying down layers of material to build up physical components, has become considerably faster, less expensive, and more accessible. It is being hailed as a major innovative breakthrough. Quite literally, a part can be built in minutes or hours.

While 3D Printing has applications in many industries, it is particularly advantageous to engineering and product development. It can be used to compliment virtual prototyping tools, or perhaps even replace them as a low-tech alternative. But 3D printing has serious ramifications for Concept Design, Detailed Design, and Prototyping and Testing.

Many engineering organizations are adopting 3D Printing. However, there are issues that should be considered. This new technology requires models composed of Mesh Geometry, which approximates precise geometry with facets, as input. Unfortunately, traditional Parametric and Direct Modeling capabilities cannot manipulate such geometry. Instead, Facet Modeling functionality is required.

Most traditional CAD applications only offer Parametric and Direct Modeling, forcing organizations to translate models back and forth with a second modeling tool that provides Facet Modeling. This compromise often requires significant effort to fix geometry that is broken during translation. Fortunately, a new set of CAD programs offer a combination of Parametric, Direct, and Facet Modeling in a single application, a fact that eliminates most of the aforementioned problems.

The purpose of this eBook is to provide insight on these topics and others. Here, you will find further details on 3D Printing and its application in development. You will also find information on the use of two CAD applications instead of a single one. Together, this information will aid you in integrating 3D Printing into your development process.

Virtual tools have provided significant benefits to engineering organizations over the years. Now, 3D Printing compliments those virtual abilities with fast, easy, low-cost physical prototyping.