Rapidform prototyping service has transformed student design by introducing Z Corporation 3D printing technology
The Royal College of Art, the world's only exclusively postgraduate art and design university, has added Z Corporation's ZPrinter(R) 450 to its array of 3D printing and rapid manufacturing machines, citing its speed, affordability and value per square foot.
Based in London, RCA's Rapidform service produces 7,000 prototypes a year and is the world's largest academic digital manufacturing facility, operating 10 machines. They range from a device that produces low-definition wax models to an Electronic Beam Melting machine that produces titanium parts.
"Z Corporation 3D printers are fast and affordable to operate while producing a high-quality model, making them a favorite for many student applications in automotive, architectural, medical and, increasingly, fine art," said Martin Watmough, manager of the Rapidform service. "The ZPrinter 450's integrated depowdering chamber effectively created space for an additional printer in our facility while the printer delivered signature Z Corporation color and performance."
Rapidform first purchased Z Corporation printing technology in 2003 due to the expense of stereolithographic (SLA) and fused deposition modeling systems. The high cost of models was forcing students to wait until the last minute to requisition their first and final prototype. Upon seeing the prototype, peers or instructors would suggest design revisions, but it would sometimes be too
late. Parts printed with the ZPrinter 450 and Spectrum Z(R)510 systems that Rapidform purchased cost less than one-third of SLA-produced parts and print five to six times faster.
"Adding Z Corporation 3D printers enabled students to obtain 3D physical models at a fraction of the previous price so they could receive more feedback earlier in the design process," said Watmough. "As a result, communication improved dramatically, resulting in significantly improved products. The transformation was remarkable."
Rapidform serves other institutions around London, such as the Bartlett School of Architecture at the University College of London. A student there, Tobias Klein, used Z Corporation technology to produce the prizewinning design for an "inverted chapel" proposed for Havana, Cuba, featuring an intricate facade patterned after animal bones.
In addition to serving students and conducting research, Rapidform is chartered by the London Development Agency as a service bureau to small and medium businesses in greater London. More than once Rapidform has exposed a business to Z Corporation 3D printing, prompting the business to purchase a Z Corporation 3D printer of its own. One such firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox of London, uses the Spectrum Z510 to produce cityscape models with special features such as colored lines depicting utilities.
"London doesn't have a defined 3D printing service bureau, and we would never want to compete with one if it did," said Watmough. "Our job is to handhold small and medium companies through the early stages of their evaluation of the technology, then hand them off to a commercial service bureau or their own printing practice. That's our raison d'etre."