I enjoyed reading Scott Billings’s article about the increasing use of rapid manufacturing and prototyping and agree that there is a quiet revolution happening in the world of manufacturing design (DW 20 September).
But I did feel he omitted a key aspect of this radical change – the growing use of digital prototyping. This has now been made possible by the increasing inclusion of testing, analysis and simulation tools in mainstream and affordable design software, enabling users to explore the possibilities of design before committing to any manufacturing or physical prototyping.
This is a fast and economical way for designers to explore their ideas – and can be used alongside rapid prototyping solutions or by sending the data directly to manufacturing. It also minimises the ‘darker implications’ Billings mentions. Instead of making multiple physical prototypes and destroying them, designers can experiment on-screen and only go to a real model at the final stages, a far more environmentally sound way of working.
We are only just beginning to realise the potential of these technologies. I am not sure I’d go as far as Geoff Hollington, quoted in your article, who describes the change as a ‘second industrial revolution’, but I like to think that the improvements will be radical.
Mike Lucas, Autodesk Manufacturing Solutions, by e-mail