Rapid prototyping technologies and services market in SEE
Rapid prototyping is a relatively new technology that enables innovative companies to quickly and inexpensively develop rough prototypes of new products and components - which can help them to nurture an innovative design through multiple iterations and bring the final product to market faster.
As such, it represents a potentially potent innovation edge. For those involved in product development, engineering, and other form-giving applications, rapid prototyping (RP) technology can offer an excellent deliverable for various applications. Prototyping can be used for concept generation, ergonomic testing, test fitting, functional testing and even small-batch production.
There are various rapid prototyping technologies available for use including Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (STL), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and 3D Printing. Each of these technologies has advantages and disadvantages.
Fused Deposition Modeling technology is marketed commercially by Stratasys, which also holds a trademark on the term. Like most other RP processes FDM works on an "additive" principle by laying down material in layers. A plastic filament or metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to an extrusion nozzle which can turn on and off the flow.
The nozzle is heated to melt the material and can be moved in both horizontal and vertical directions by a numerically controlled mechanism, directly controlled by a computer-aided design software package. In a similar manner to stereolithography, the model is built up from layers as the material hardens immediately after extrusion from the nozzle.
Stereolithography is an additive fabrication process utilizing a vat of liquid UV-curable photopolymer "resin" and a UV laser to build parts a layer at a time. On each layer, the laser beam traces a part cross-section pattern on the surface of the liquid resin. Exposure to the UV laser light cures, or, solidifies the pattern traced on the resin and adheres it to the layer below.
Selective laser sintering is an additive rapid manufacturing technique that uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass powders into a mass representing a desired 3D object. The laser selectively fuses powdered material by scanning cross-sections generated from a 3D digital description of the part on the surface of a powder bed. After each cross-section is scanned, the powder bed is lowered by one layer thickness, a new layer of material is applied on top, and the process is repeated until the part is completed.
3D printing is a unique form of prototype creation that is rooted in traditional rapid printing technology. A three dimensional object is created by layering and connecting successive cross sections of material. 3D printers are generally faster, more affordable and easier to use than other additive fabrication technologies.
While prototyping dominates current uses, 3D printing offers tremendous potential for retail consumer uses, especially because the cost of production is less than other methods, and the part build time is minimal. In the latest incarnations, 3D color printing is also available. This means that a part can be printed to represent the colors of the finished product, to show label concepts or requirements, or to indicate the results of stress analysis or other failure mode effects (FME) analysis.
For the most part, all rapid prototype systems require a 3D computer model to start the process. In most cases a significant amount of file preparation must be undertaken to get a file to generate a correct rapid prototype model.
In the near future, rapid prototype technology will become more widespread and pervade even to the home. For now though, for timely and expert delivery, the use of a service bureau is the best way for most innovative companies, individuals and organizations.
The following market review presents some of the leading South-East European companies in rapid prototyping technologies and services.
Bulgarian Industrial Group
Bulgarian Industrial Group (BIG) AD is a 100% privately owned joint-stock company, established in 1997 with a strong emphasis on innovation and high technology. BIG has four business lines: Engineering services - product design, digital simulation, rapid prototyping, technical documentation; Manufacturing of tools and plastic parts; Manufacturing of Wire-O Binding wire with the JBI trademark. Its partners are American, EC, Russian and Bulgarian companies, leaders in the automotive, defence and other industries.
The company features engineering and manufacture departments. The manufacture is compliant to the world standards. The company is ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004 certified. "Our highly skilled and experienced staff, combined with our close and productive partnerships with other innovative companies, give us the confidence that BIG will continue to justify our customers’ highest expectations in the fields of innovation, creation of new products, 3D modelling, rapid prototyping, tooling equipment and non-standard equipment, analysis, technical documentation, educational and promotional video productions, consultancy and management, and implementation of quality management systems, compliant with the requirements of the ISO 9000 and QS 9000 quality standards", stated from the company.
"Technology of Selective Laser Melting is very similar to the process of rapid prototyping of plastics, with main difference that here is used 100% tool steel. In short, the process is metal building of a product layer by layer, by a predetermined three-dimensional model. This method is mostly used in the plastic industry for manufacturing of cores of the injection moulds, where there’s a problem with cooling of the moulding cores. This method gives opportunity internal conformal cooling channels to be designed and produced in optimal way.
The main advantages of the method in plastic part production are: reducing injection cycle up to 40%; reducing deformations and internal stresses in the plastic part; improving the accuracy of the parts; eliminating dead cooling zones; improve the aesthetic appearance of the product. To be offered production of moulding core by SLM method, the tool shop company needs to send us 3d model of the part. Based on our experience we can give the optimal cooling solution and prognosis what improvement will be achieved.
The technology is fast entering in Western Europe and until now several Bulgarian companies implemented it in their new projects, achieving very good results and improvements", commented Ognian Petkov, CEO Krasco-Co.
Laboratory of resource saving technologies and rapid prototyping
Laboratory of resource saving technologies and rapid prototyping is part of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Department: Machine Tools & Manufacturing, University of Ruse. The laboratory offers conceptual design creation: project conception; functional model; virtual (2D or/and 3D) prototype; 3D Rapid Prototyping using FDM technology (3D Printing) and 3D Laser Scanning.
3D modeling includes creating high complex solid and surface 3d models, based on classical 2D drawings; creating high complex solid and surface 3d models, based on a real parts; creating 2D or/and 3D motion simulation; creating full drawing (2D) documentation.
"Provider of CAD/CAM software systems Rapid Progress aims to help universities in Bulgaria. Four ESPRIT CAM network licenses were granted to the College of Energy and Electronics at the Technical University - Sofia, thereby continuing program "Esprit Grant" Rapid Progress distributor of Esprit in Bulgaria. Licenses include all the functionality of the software.
ESPRIT is a leading innovative software developer in 5 -axis free-form machining. Unlike other CAM manufacturers, which develop and offer interface only and which use algorithmic core for their calculations, bought by third-party company, DP Technology dedicate more than 20 percent of its annual revenue to R&D department. ESPRIT will include its own integrated simulation and verification of NC code in the next version.
ESPRIT’s high-performance capabilities include machining any part geometry (solid, surface, or wireframe), universal post processing to format G-code for virtually any machine tool, and solid simulation and verification with dry runs rendered in dynamic solids for optimal part quality and consistency. ESPRIT is 100% pure Windows, and provides a comfortable and familiar user interface for maximum productivity.", stated from the company.
"Prototyping has been rather neglected from Southeastern European manufacturers for some time now. That might be because there was no efficient way of doing so and no reliable partner to help. Now there is - using SolidFill’s rapid prototyping services through 3D printing technologies the production of every company can benefit from significantly reduced lead times and tremendous cost optimizations", stated from the company.
The technology gives the opportunity to test the concept of almost every physical product and its prospect version in order to evaluate the fit to market before investing into mass production. The rapid prototyping services yield fully functional parts from a 3D CAD/CAM models that replicate every aspect of a generation of products to test their industrial or ergonomic design, dynamic friction, soft touch parts, wind tunnel properties, etc. SolidFIll gives their clients the possibility of 3D printing a number of different versions of the model at the same time without significant time constraints.
Finding and fixing design flaws have never been easier while re-prototyping is just as fast and accurate. SolidFill uses only high end plastic materials to guarantee the quality of the prototypes. The different properties of the resins support the application requirements of a large range of product so that the prototype can be even tested in real life cases and replicate the actual mass produced object.
SolidFill’s partners and clients enjoy on average 50% decrease of the time to produce a prototype and 80% decrease of cost, which in general leads to a substantial reduction of the time to market ratio of a product line. The team is comprised of highly motivated professionals with extensive international background focused on individual projects. Being positioned in Bulgaria enables the company to turn the low cost advantage of the market into the most competitive pricing of the service worldwide.
All this, of course, is neither at the expense of the quality of the machinery nor the professionalism of the team. Virtually every industry that requires product design under some form can benefit and use SolidFill’s rapid prototyping to optimize its production cycle. In the portfolio of services you can also find and exploit 3D scanning, 3D CAD/CAM modeling and production in limited quantities.
If you cannot think of way to integrate rapid prototyping and 3D Printing within your organization or are curious how much cost you can strip from your process, do not hesitate to contact SolidFill’s team at any time", added from the company.
3D Prints on Demand
3D PRINTS ON DEMAND P.C. is a company providing 3D Printing, 3D Scanning and 3D modeling services. It is based in Larissa, Greece and serves its customers in Europe and worldwide.
"Under the pressure of project deadlines and cash flow shortages that markets face, professionals from various industries (such as the medical equipment, the mechanical equipment, the automotive and the architecture industry) turn to alternative cost effective and time saving solutions" says Bill Kolip, sales manager of the company.
The growth of the rapid prototyping industry in the past few years has been very exciting for the enthusiasts of this technology, mostly thanks to the 3D printing evolution. Mr. Kolip being one of them is very optimistic about the future of the rapid prototyping industry and he has a good reason for that.
Working prototypes can now be manufactured within days instead of weeks. If a prototype doesn’t come out the way it was originally conceived, the cost and time needed for the iterations until the desired outcome is reached can be cut by about 90% and 85% respectively. Quality control is not a painful procedure for the client any more.
The key advantage of Additive Manufacturing (AM) over traditional subtractive manufacturing techniques is the difference between adding and subtracting material. Traditional manufacturers use techniques such as cutting, machining and punching in order to form the final part. Additive Manufacturing allows the design and production of whole assemblies in a single item.
Internal structures and pathways can be designed into the component. Additive technology eliminates tooling and other costly manufacturing support processes as the component is produced in its final form directly from a CAD design.
There are numerous materials available. Each of them features various attributes and their selection varies according to its purpose. Heat resistance, chemical resistance, fatigue resistance, high definition, durability, strength and stability are some of the unique properties that the 3D PRINTS ON DEMAND materials (such as ABS, Ultem, Nylon and even wax for metal casting) have to offer.
Architects, civil engineers, aerospace and aviation manufacturers, orthodontists, military and defense manufacturers, jewellery and fashion designers and professionals from many other fields use the 3d services of 3D PRINTS ON DEMAND. Objects that are manufactured additively can be used anywhere throughout the product life cycle, from pre-production (i.e. rapid prototyping) to full-scale production (i.e. rapid manufacturing), in addition to tooling applications and post-production customization.
An item can either be 3d modeled via specialized 3D modeling software and CAD programs or digitized via a 3D scanner. 3D PRINTS ON DEMAND can help you build your ideas from start to finish. Their professional team of experts ensures a well communicated collaboration at all stages of the process and will deliver nothing less but the customer’s exact requirements. Or as their slogan says: "We build your ideas, one layer at a time!
4th Dimension is based in Athens and supplies advanced product development technology and high level consultancy services in Greece, Serbia, Cyprus, Malta and the Middle East. The company offers the following technologies: CAD/CAM/CAE, PLM, 3D printing, rapid prototyping, direct digital manufacturing, reverse engineering, quality control, dynamic publishing, engineering calculations, vacuum and investment casting.
Future Technology Systems
Future Technology Systems was founded in 1996 in the city of Volos, Greece. The company is specialized in engineering & industrial design, technology transfer activities of advanced CAD/CAM software systems, mechatronics products (eg. CNC, Robots, Metrology, 3D Scanning equipment) used in wide range of industrial and crafts applications and participates in National and EEC Research projects.
The company owns a modern industrial building, within the A’ Industrial area of Volos - Greece with Laboratories/production facilities, design office, exhibition, meeting and customer training spaces. Future Technology Systems offers high quality 3D Printing & Prototyping services. Its prototyping systems include OBJET EDEN 350V, EDEN250, SOLIDSCAPE and CNC systems (from 3-5 axes precision milling). The size of the prototypes can be from few mm to several meters.
INFOCAD is a company based in Athens, with a local office in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, supplying technologically advanced solutions for design & manufacture of industrial products using: CAD/CAM CAE/CAID, Artistic CAD/CAM, Rapid & Virtual Prototyping, Rapid tooling Reverse Engineering & 3D Scanning Systems, Product Data Management & Collaborative Product Commerce.
The solutions are best-in-class for: rapid product design & manufacture; rapid tool design & production; computer simulation & optimization of plastic injection process, and plastic flow analysis; sheet metal design & manufacturing; etc.
Hellas Prototyping is a company founded in Greece that uses rapid prototyping technology. It specializes in rapid technologies such as industrial design, product development and rapid manufacturing. Its services include 3D printing & 3D scanning, rapid tooling, injection molding, pressure die casting and precision machining offering advantages such as the minimum possible time for the completion of any project, excellent quality, fast delivery as well as the minimum cost comparing to the competition.
PV Engineering sells and supports 3D Printers from Z Corporation and SLM RP machines from MCP-HEK, which build three-dimensional models automatically from a computer. Also provides services in RP and RE technology area.
Plus 90 (+90) is a provider of rapid prototyping, rapid tooling and rapid manufacturing services since 1997. +90 delivers Rapid Parts made of plastic, metal, composite, wood, glass, or hybrid that are impact resistant, flexible, colored, heat resistant, fire retardant, transparent using FDM, SLA, SLS, Polyjet, Vacuum Casting, CNC, Rapid Tooling, RP Tempering technologies; finished, painted, assembled and quality controlled with 3D Scanners if required.
Ay Tasarim is the first medical rapid prototyping company in Turkey. It also serves industry with functional ABS parts. Ay Tasarim has a Dimension FDM machine in house, and are a partner of Infotron.
Cadem is a value added reseller (VAR) of 3D Systems Inc.’s ThermoJetTM line of printers. There is one ThermoJetTM Printer installed at its Istanbul office, which is used for both case studies and giving RP services. Using its business partners, Cadem can also provide RTV silicone molded (vacuum cast) and investment cast prototypes.
Protomak Teknoloji Hizmetleri provides design and prototyping services from A to Z using 3D modeling, rapid prototyping, vacuum casting, CNC machining, clay modeling, surface finishing, polishing and painting for industries such as automotive, white goods, medical appliances, electronic appliances, architecture, furniture, plastic goods and machinery. In addition to in-house FDM and J-P technologies, it also supply SLS, MJM, 3DP technologies through partner organizations.
Troy Teknoloji was founded in Ankara in 2004 and provides product design and development, rapid prototyping, rapid tooling services and solutions to its customers. Customer requirements are provided by using 3D CAD Softwares, Rapid Prototyping Technology and Vacuum Casting Technologies.
Sources: InnovationTools.com, additive3d.com, Bulgarian Industrial Group, Krasco-Co, Laboratory of resource saving technologies and rapid prototyping, Rapid Progress, SolidFill, Future Technology Systems, Infocad, PV Engineering, Hellas Prototyping, 4th Dimension, Plus 90, Ay Tasarim, Cadem, Protomak, Troy Teknoloji
Keywords: Rapid prototyping, Bulgarian Industrial Group, Krasco-Co, Laboratory of resource saving technologies and rapid prototyping, Rapid Progress, SolidFill, Future Technology Systems, Infocad, PV Engineering, Hellas Prototyping, 4th Dimension, Plus 90, Ay Tasarim, Cadem, Protomak, Troy Teknoloji
LATEST issue 4/2023