Empirical Similitude Method for the Functional Test with Rapid Prototypes
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Rapid prototyping has the potential to improve the performance of the design process both in cycle time and resources. Such improvements may be realized through the timely visual, ergonomic, and functional information provided by solid freeform fabrication (SFF) parts. Of these information classes, functional information is perhaps the least realized with current technology. A number of technical issues have limited functional testing of SFF parts, including sensor fusion, range of prototyping materials, part size etc. Our focus here concerns the material issues of functional testing, especially the potential differences in prototyping material choices to actual production materials. For example, to derive accurate functional information of non-polymeric products from polymeric rapid prototypes, an improved similitude method that can overcome the distortion of material characteristics is necessary. In this paper, a new similitude method that utilizes specimen test data is introduced. This method develops a mathematical transformation between prototype and product behavior through specimen testing. This transformation replaces the role ofthe scale factor of the traditional similitude method, and provides a basis for relating prototypes to proposed production parts, even under dependent loading and material conditions. Computational and experimental results of a structural design provide verification ofthe new method.