The development of a rapid prototyping selection system for small companies
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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This research describes the development of a computer based design advice system intended specifically to aid small companies in the application of rapid prototyping. To accomplish this firstly required a thorough review of the current state of the art in prototyping technologies and associated processes. Through interviews with industry professionals this review included an assessment of the actual operational capabilities found in industry as opposed to theoretical performance measures. From this data, rules were created to quantify and rank the performance of the different technologies according to parameters that are the most readily available and easily understood by the user. It was also necessary to devise a method of specifying the users' requirements of the prototype. Providing as much automation as possible, required the development of software capable of reading in CAD data and deriving from it the parameters that would most affect the suitability of a rapid prototyping process. Further software was developed to calculate realistic and reliable estimations for the costs and lead times associated with different possible routes. Explanatory material was added to the system to describe and illustrate how the different technologies worked, such that with continued use, the user could become familiar with rapid prototyping. Unlike previous attempts at producing a rapid prototyping selection system, the one described here was tested with target users and verified against the opinion of an industry expert. The resulting system was found to be quick and simple to operate providing all of the required information whilst incurring the minimum of hindrance to the users' normal tasks.
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