From everything the JTEC/WTEC panel saw in Europe, it is evident that the infrastructure that is being developed in Germany is worth watching, and perhaps something for U.S. universities and industries to get involved in. Panelists were actively invited to participate in the Fraunhofer RP program. With the quality and quantity of the infrastructure that is being put in place, a great deal of R&D can be expected from this program.

In Japan, there remains a broad propensity to compare RP to CNC; however, there are some exceptions. The tooling applications with filled resins underway at Teijin Seiki and Shonan Design certainly represent an approach that is going to mature and eventually catch on. Also, the tooling examples cited at INCS are excellent. To some degree, the Japanese reluctance to quickly change to RP technologies is due to their expert know-how and significant financial investment in numerical control machines: NC works well for them.

Another issue slowing RP acceptance by the Japanese is the relative lack of 3D computer modeling capability. In talking to the attendees at the 1995 Japanese Association of Rapid Prototyping Industry (JARI) conference, this author found the proliferation of 3D CAD in Japan to be very low in comparison to that of the United States (see also Chapter 8). This is a critical issue that Professor Nakagawa brought up when he confirmed that as a country "Japan needs to find ways to get 3D CAD in the workplace." Several Japanese service bureau representatives confirmed that over half of the time they dedicate to RP is in creating 3D CAD models from their customers' 2D drawings.

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Published: March 1997; WTEC Hyper-Librarian