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Researchers Use 3D Printing to Help Small Manufacturers

3D printing technology has greatly reduced the time and cost associated with creating prototype parts. However, the cost has still been prohibitive for many small businesses because 3D printers typically cost between $50,000 and $1 million. The University of California, Irvine’s RapidTech is helping small businesses by providing affordable printing services for only the cost of the materials used. The system—which creates objects by adding layers of material based on the way it is programmed—has helped Airflow Systems—which makes aircraft cooling systems—, manufacture new parts, including those for vintage airplanes for which parts are not easy to find. For example, Airflow used the system to recreate parts needed by a museum to restore a 1938 Japanese Zero fighter plane based on incomplete and corroded original parts. The UC Irvine researchers say they work with businesses based on criteria including the project’s intellectual merit, as well as the project’s potential to train students and help other business enterprises. (PhysOrg)(The Los Angeles Times)(RapidTech)

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