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Chapter 6:
Laser-produced Rapid Prototyping in Manufacturing
In the modern era of industrialization, various production units are in severe competition. Due to the economic backdrop and thus the restructuring of various units, industrialists are forced to take drastic measures to update their production units for survival. On the other hand, the researchers in their R & D laboratories are searching for new techniques for product development or looking for new strategies to improve efficiency and productivity. For the last two decades, since the conception of the rapid prototype concept, several medium- to small-scale industries worldwide have implemented various new techniques of rapid manufacturing and tooling to keep up their production and meet customer demand. Both optics and laser technology have played a vital role in the development of new innovative techniques for manufacturing technology. To achieve better quality and high productivity of the end product, many of the rapid prototype (RP) systems are based on techniques that require specialized optics and laser systems. Besides that, the futuristic trend of RP in microtechnology may extend its utility in the direct fabrication of micro-optical components such as microlens, mirror arrays etc., for its various applications in micro-optical electromechanical systems (MOEMS). With the established technique of photopolymerization for making plastic mold, the technique has now been extended to metallic parts. However, due to limitations in processing techniques and materials, their application is still limited to a few products. But there seems to be significant potential of the new techniques for medical and industrial applications. The traditional RP systems, such as stereolithography (SL), selective laser sintering (SLS), fused deposition modeling (FDM), and ballistic particles manufacturing processes continue to meet the demand of most of the rapid prototyping (RPT) jobs. Of these, stereolithography can deliver the finished product with desired shape and accuracy, whereas the SLS and FDM deliver an unfinished product with less accuracy in shape and relatively higher roughness of the surface. Therefore, they need to undergo a secondary treatment of infiltration and surface treatment. However, the part produced is more robust and durable. In this chapter we review a few of these various fabrication techniques that produce a complex structure in the macro as well as in the micro domain.
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