As I rode around the parking lot at the Local Motors manufacturing plant in Chandler, AZ, in the company's Strati - the 3D printed car that stole the show at IMTS, I thought back to when I first started writing about this thing called "rapid prototyping." [PlasticsToday first covered the 3D printed car in September: Carbon fiber-reinforced material used to fabricate world's first 3D printed vehicle].
Now here I was more than two decades later riding around in a 3D printed car. Granted the surface finish was a bit rough. The interior looked a bit like a volcanic lava flow. But I had to admit that this industry has come a long way from the days of RP (rapid prototyping) to riding in a 3D printed car.
Rapid prototyping was just that: it was quick way to build a solid part using powdered plastic sintered with a laser system (SLS) into a rather rough-surfaced part. That part wasn't good for much except to prove a concept or to show marketing or to take to a trade show. There weren't many materials to choose from either. So all in all it was pretty limited in both applications and materials.