MARCH 1997

Friedrich B. Prinz (Panel Chair)
Clinton L. Atwood
Richard F. Aubin
Joseph J. Beaman
Robert L. Brown
Paul S. Fussell
Allan J. Lightman
Emanuel Sachs
Lee E. Weiss
Michael J. Wozny

Full Report: http://itri.loyola.edu/rp/


This report reviews the status of the capabilities of selected European countries and Japan in developing and implementing layered manufacturing technologies. The approach to this study was three-pronged: first, identify and study key foreign rapid prototyping (RP) technologies and discover important new applications under development; second, evaluate and compare foreign competencies to those in the United States; and third, critically examine related standards. Sources for the study included visits to 34 development organizations, government agencies, users and manufacturers of solid freeform fabrication (SFF) equipment, and material suppliers in Europe and Japan. The WTEC's panel of experts concluded that the United States is ahead in technical innovations, materials, and manufacturing applications of layered manufacturing technology. Penetration of three-dimensional (3D) computer-assisted design (CAD) and solid modeling is not as deep in Germany and Japan as in the United States. Investment casting is common in the United States and has driven metal applications of RP. This was found to be true to a lesser extent in Japan and Germany. Powder processing for SFF is crucial for a number of process development efforts in the United States and Europe. No layered powder process developments were observed in Japan. In rapid prototyping for medical applications, U.S. efforts are distinctly behind those of Europe and Japan. In the area of machine design, the United States is at parity with Europe and Japan. Germany and Japan stress the importance of incremental process and equipment improvement. Japan has a long tradition of incremental process improvement. The Japanese RP development effort is in part focused on this strategy. Germany and Japan have implemented major domestic programs to systematically create an infrastructure of strategic RP technologies. Seven Fraunhofer institutes, with financial support from the German government, are cooperating in a rapid prototyping network to speed up the development, advancement, and dissemination of rapid prototyping technologies to improve the competitiveness of German manufacturing industry. Several European companies contribute to world RP software infrastructure by focusing on general-purpose software and standards, opening up entrepreneurial software opportunities. Japan has launched a major design and manufacturing program, CALS (Commerce at Light Speed), with a funding level of $300 million for 1996 and an anticipated increase for 1997 and thereafter. This program will have a significant impact on the infrastructure of rapid prototyping technologies. Traditionally, manufacturing education in Japan was led by industry. Major changes are envisioned, with universities playing a key role in the education of the next generation of design and manufacturing engineers. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI); the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture (Monbusho); and Japanese universities are initiating new partnerships promoting collaboration, learning, and joint research.

1 Published by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers
Published: Summer 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian