The third edition of RapidPro is currently taking place, which features all the latest in the field of rapid prototyping / additive manufacturing for consumer and industrial applications alike. Rapid prototyping is maturing at a fast rate, offering benefits from manufacturing methods for small series to hardware customisation options for consumers.
The latter is something that genuinely excites me: we can expect the hardware equivalent of open source software to create custom objects. It will bring the producer closer to the consumer, stimulates modularity (ultimately leading to less wasteful consumerism, as contradictory as that may sound), and promotes decentralisation (another great development I could talk about for hours on end).
At Benchmark Electronics the focus lies on high-end industrial and medical products; both types of products tend to be produced in relatively low numbers, so it is very important to select the appropriate production method in order to be as cost-effective as possible. Rapid prototyping is on the opposite end of the scale when compared to large series injection moulding (and there is a whole world in between), so it is definitely valuable to stay up-to-date with the latest techniques.
At the moment I’m most interested in developments regarding metal sintering techniques, high definition lithography, (simultaneously) printing materials with widely varying characteristics, and 3D scanning. All of which are represented at this event, so consider me pleased. 😛 By the way, please remind me to put up pictures later.