Precision Optical Manufacturing Co. Inc. (POM), Plymouth, Mich., has introduced a new technique that provides manufacturers with the capability to produce fully dense metal prototypes. The Direct Metal Prototype (DMP) technique is akin to the conventional stereolithographic technology used to produce plastic prototype parts. However, DMP enables users to produce fully functional, 100% dense, near net-shaped parts from tool steels, aluminum, copper, and other metallic materials from a solid model CAD design. "This is going to dramatically change the face of rapid prototyping," says Timothy Skszek, POM's vice president of operations. "The DMP technique not only yields functional metallic prototype parts, it also provides the capability to imbed objects such as sensors, copper heat sinks, thermal barrier, ceramic matrices. and/or internal passages previously not available in the marketplace." The DMD technology is the result of blending five common technologies: lasers, CAD, CAM, sensors, and powder metallurgy. The resulting process creates a metal prototype part by focusing an industrial laser beam onto a metallic workpiece or preformed part, creating a molten pool of metal. A stream of metallic powder is then injected into the melt pool, increasing the size of the molten pool. By moving the laser back and forth under CNC control, tracing out a pattern defined by the CAD geometry, the prototype part is built -- line by line, one layer at a time.