Rapid prototyping has lived up to its promise of growing at a tremendous rate as an industry. Which just goes to show that it fulfils a great need in engineering, because all the RP systems still have some very obvious drawbacks. One of the problems most systems on the market today struggle with is that of size. If you are designing an electric toothbrush and you have quite a lot of spare cash, you have a good choice of manufacturers.
Anything bigger than a square metre or so and you start having to compromise.
A French company, Charlyrobot offers a potential solution in the form of an RP station called Stratoconception. According to the manufacturers, the station is able to produce prototypes of large dimensions (up to several metres) and with high degrees of complexity, with or without undercuts or hollow parts. Not even conventional three-axis or five-axis machining systems can cope with such prototypes.
The Stratoconception RP station can create simple dummy parts to complete functional prototypes, using any soft or composite materials. The process involves cutting shapes out of sheets of material and then fitting the different parts together. No special training in machining or CADCAM is required.
An integrated PC controls the complete machining programme, the cutting table and the finishing station.
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