In Japan, the JTEC/WTEC panel was told that solids creation is the major stumbling block to increased use of RP. At the same time, the panel was made aware of an awakening realization in Japan that solid modeling is useful and needs to be pursued more vigorously. This is expected to happen rapidly, led by large companies.

There is an unwavering drive in Japan in both the user and vendor communities to produce the highest-quality parts possible. The users want more precision from their machines. This is one reason why there is so much development of proprietary software.

In Japan, the interest in standards for data exchange comes primarily from academia and research organizations. Standardization will not occur until the larger companies get involved. MITI appears more intent on fostering the development of machines and consolidating the industry than on promoting standardization efforts.

In the United States, there is much interest in standardization, and some limited activity, but the efforts have not coalesced. They may be stimulated by some recent National Science Foundation program announcements for research in neutral or intermediate representations for RP part geometry. Standardization will become even more important in the future as SFF machines start dealing with multiple materials.

Europe is heavily committed to RP, with concentrated efforts on building new machines and businesses, as well as on establishing a strong research base. There are more new software companies and more software research projects in Europe than in Japan; the United States continues to lead. As in Japan, there seems to be more national cooperation among research projects and companies in Europe than in the United States. These national programs could offset the current market advantage held by the United States, because the U.S. RP industry consists primarily of small companies that are at a vulnerable stage.

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Published: March 1997; WTEC Hyper-Librarian