Rapid prototyping seems to be all the current craze in design and is testiment to technology and craft going a long way in partnership to make beautiful d'objects that wouldn't otherwise exist in nature.
Nervous System creates unique, modern jewelry combining rapid prototyping methods with industrial materials.
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From WIKI: Rapid prototyping is the automatic construction of physical objects using additive manufacturing technology. The first techniques for rapid prototyping became available in the late 1980s and were used to produce models and prototype parts. Today, they are used for a much wider range of applications and are even used to manufacture production-quality parts in relatively small numbers. Some sculptors use the technology to produce complex shapes for fine arts exhibitions.
The use of additive manufacturing technology for rapid prototyping takes virtual designs from computer aided design (CAD) or animation modeling software, transforms them into thin, virtual, horizontal cross-sections and then creates successive layers until the model is complete. It is a process where the virtual model and the physical model are almost identical.
With additive manufacturing, the machine reads in data from a CAD drawing and lays down successive layers of liquid, powder, or sheet material, and in this way builds up the model from a series of cross sections. These layers, which correspond to the virtual cross section from the CAD model, are joined together or fused automatically to create the final shape. The primary advantage to additive fabrication is its ability to create almost any shape or geometric feature.
The word "rapid" is relative: construction of a model with contemporary methods can take from several hours to several days, depending on the method used and the size and complexity of the model. Additive systems for rapid prototyping can typically produce models in a few hours, although it can vary widely depending on the type of machine being used and the size and number of models being produced simultaneously.
3D printers give designers and concept development teams the ability to produce parts and concept models using a desktop size printer.
Rapid prototyping is now entering the field of rapid manufacturing and it is believed by many experts that this is a "next level" technology.