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B. Not A Replicator, But Pretty Good

Narrator: This is Science Today. If you're a scientist and you want a detailed model of a molecule or a sea floor, come to Mike Bailey at the University of California, San Diego. He'll whip you up a laminated paper model -- which looks and feels just like wood -- on his laminated object manufacturing machine, one of a number of so-called rapid prototyping devices that are just now coming into use.

Bailey: It's unfortunate that the title of this field is called rapid prototyping, because that gives people the impression that it's like a Star Trek replicator -- you ask for it and a little beam comes down and there it is. And in fact that's not right. The reason it's called rapid prototyping is because you don't have to go through a lot of the traditional manufacturing preparation. Developing tool paths, designing clamps and fixtures and so on, you completely bypass that. But the process itself takes anywhere from maybe 12 to 30 hours.

Narrator: The machine builds up the model from layers of paper four thousandths of an inch thick, one sheet at a time. Bailey has fabricated models of everything from the surface of Venus to a hard drive component. For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.