Allan J. Lightman


There is considerable interest in the United States in applying rapid prototyping (RP) technologies to the fabrication of ceramic parts, primarily for military or aerospace needs. This interest in RP technologies is driven by the potential applications of high-performance ceramics and the need to find fabrication techniques that will reduce the cost of ceramic parts. Ceramic materials offer performance at both elevated temperatures and in harsh environments. A number of programs funded by the Department of Defense focus on development of production capability for military parts. The technologies developed can transition directly to the commercial sector.

In contrast with the programs in the United States, materials development efforts in both Europe and Japan are focused first on polymers and then on metals. The development of ceramic materials and processes for RP is considered a low priority. Interest in ceramics appears to be only a by-product of ongoing development, with the exception of the EOS RP machine, which builds parts using foundry sand.

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Published: March 1997; WTEC Hyper-Librarian