University of California, Irvine is leading the way in biomedical and 3D printing, which lets users design prototypes on their computers and print them out. As these technologies develop at a record pace, there is a critical need for highly trained engineers – 600,000 more in coming years.
UCI partnershiped with Saddleback College to set up RapidTech, the only nonprofit on a U.S. campus that trains community college and university students side by side, creating the workforce of tomorrow. RapidTech is funded by the National Science Foundation and housed in UCI's Henry Samueli School of Engineering. Besides that, RapidTech also offers low-cost, cutting-edge 3D printing service for businesses needing to quickly design and refine prototypes.
RapidTech is equipped with 20 3D printers and other equipment and the 3D printing process enables users to quickly design and refine prototypes in a very low cost. "We're helping to create the supply chain of the future." said UC Irvine mechanical engineering professor Marc Madou.
The professional 3D printers cost $50,000 to $1 million, many small- to medium-sized businesses just couldn't afford. One happy client of RapidTech is Genevro's Airflow Systems, a small firm that has been designing, building and selling FAA-certified aircraft equipment, such as engine intercoolers, since 1987. By using Rapid Tech's service Airflow Systems is able to save weeks and sometimes months of production time, said Bill Genevro, president of Airflow Systems.
One of the more esoteric projects involved re-creating parts for a 1938 Japanese Zero fighter plane, using only the pitted, corroded and incomplete original parts. This was for a restoration project for the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore.
With RapidTech's help, Genevro was able to scan each part, correct the defects, and then reproduce a 3-D representation of parts that hadn't been manufactured in nearly 70 years. The technology is just as useful in designing new and improved parts for machines currently in production.
"If Southern California is going to regain its competitive stature in manufacturing, we have to be leaders in adopting this kind of technology," Genevro said.
For the well-known watersports equipment brand Hobie Designs Inc. in San Juan Capistrano, Rapid Tech helped develop a carbon fiber paddle based on a partial design that the lab was able to extend across the entire item.
"The 3-D scanning, computer-assisted design and prototyping process helped us deliver this new concept as fast as we could conceive it," said Hobie Designs President Jeff Alter, "and now customers get to reap the rewards."
Abrams Plumbing wanted to create a compact, easy to operate, single handed tool to aid plumbers and home repair people in removing damaged compression fit ferrules in hard to reach locations. RapidTech took first photos of the original tool and created a 3D model in SolidWorks. Several wax and plastic prototypes were printed and tested, and adjustments were made to the SolidWorks model accordingly to reduce the rate of failure. After each successive change new pieces were printed, cast, and machined. The current version is undergoing field testing and has proven to be far superior to anything available on the market.
(Tools Used: SolidWorks, Stratasys Dimension SST 1200es, 3D Systems Thermojet | image credit: RapidTech)
But RapidTech don't just take on any project. "We decide on a case-by-case basis," Tackett said. "If someone wants us to make a box, probably not. We don't make boxes. We ask ourselves, 'Is there intellectual merit to the project? Will it help train students? Will it help other companies?' That's what we are looking for."
Source: Los Angeles Times
Posted in 3D Printing Services
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