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Rapid Prototyping Technology - Incremental Forming
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Incremental forming is not a completely new process, but the modern application for this sheet metal forming technology using CNC controlled equipment is. The process works by clamping a piece of sheet metal in place over a simple form of the desired shape (often made from low-cost disposable materials). The forming tool, which is a rounded shaft is controlled by numeric controlled movement, slowly pushes on the sheet metal and locally deforming it. The continuously moving forming tool will incrementally accumulate the deformation and eventually form a shape in the sheet.
The main application for this rapid prototyping technology is in prototyping formed and shaped sheet metal components without needing a costly pressing or stamping tool. Other applications include rapid production of composite molds, vacuum forming molds, rotational molds, injection molds and even casting molds. The main limitations of this process are that it is a fairly slow process and thus suited to low volume production only, and that there is a minimum draft angle of 30 degrees required on the shape.