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Commentary: Rapid Planning

By Jamie J. Gooch

When I was 18, I wrecked my car. It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last, but it was the most embarrassing. Thankfully, the only casualty was my car’s front end. The grill was toast, the headlight surrounds — along with the headlights — were gone. As a poor college student, I didn’t have the cash for a body shop to make the repairs. I needed the car to get back and forth to classes, so my dad came to the rescue.

He could’ve loaned me the money to have a professional make the fix, but that would have taught me nothing. Instead, we fashioned an entire front end out of leftover plywood, attached it to the car, and installed new headlights through holes jigsawed into the wood. I was both impressed with my father’s ingenuity and horrified at the thought of anyone seeing me drive such a “Frankencar.” I don’t know if it was street legal, but I do know that the girl I was dating took one look at it and decided it was time we saw other people. It certainly motivated me to be more careful driving and to save up for the proper replacement parts.

Finding Rapid Tech Solutions

If only we would have had a 3D printer in the garage. Maybe my kids will have better luck. We seem to be approaching the day when parts will be downloaded and printed in every weekend engineer’s workshop. You can get a sneak peek at that future, as well as the state-of-the-art tools and software available to engineers now at the RAPID 2012 Conference and Exposition.

This year’s RAPID conference, which will be held in Atlanta May 22-25, is a great place to see the amazing capabilities of today’s rapid technologies and learn how others are using it to save time and money.

Keynote speakers for the event include Paul Doe, chief designer at Prodrive Rally Programs and Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers Associates. Doe could no doubt have solved my teenage fender bender troubles without the use of plywood. His presentation will provide an overview of Prodrive’s development of the MINI John Cooper Works World Rally Car. Wohlers will address additive manufacturing during his State of the Industry report.

The Urbee 3D-printed car was on display last year.
The Urbee 3D-printed car was on display last year.

The conference and event provides great networking opportunities, as well as a display of the latest equipment and software. You can also sit in on briefings to get up to date on additive manufacturing and 3D imaging, attend workshops led by industry experts, and choose from a number of conference sessions.

Rapid 2012 Details

Networking receptions will be held Tuesday and Wednesday. The exhibition hall hours run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. Briefings and workshops will be offered on additive manufacturing, 3D imaging and reverse engineering, and making metal parts using additive technologies.

The more than 60 conference sessions are broken into the following tracks:

  • 3D Imaging
  • Medical and Dental
  • Transportation
  • Final Part Production
  • Creative/Innovative
  • Casting (including a seminar of metalcasting processes)
  • Additive Manufacturing Applications
  • Developing the Additive Manufacturing Workforce
  • Direct Write Printed Materials/Electronics

If you learn better by seeing real-world examples, sign up for one of the tours that run from 9 a.m. till noon on Friday. One set of tours takes you to the rapid prototyping lab at Newell/Rubbermaid to see Objet, Z Corporation, Stratasys and EOS 3D printers in action; and then to the Slingshot Product Development Group, which uses rapid prototyping, 3D scanning and artisan sculpting in the product development cycle. Tour 2 takes you out to the Georgia Institute of Technology to see how polyjetting, stereolithography and laser sintering technologies are used in the Manufacturing Research Center and the School of Mechanical Engineering; and then to the Inferno Art Foundry to check out its casting process.

An example of how far 3D printing is penetrating into other industries and be seen in RAPID 2012’s inaugural 3D Print Fashion Show, as well its Contemporary Art Gallery that presents innovative uses of additive manufacturing.

Visit rapid.sme.org for registration information and to learn more about the show. If you go, stop by DE’s booth to say hello.

Jamie Gooch is the managing editor of Desktop Engineering. Contact him at de-editors@deskeng.com.

About Jamie J. Gooch

Jamie Gooch is the managing editor of Desktop Engineering. Contact him at de-editors@deskeng.com.