Monster Sales: Dimension reports that
engineers are clammoring for its new, low-cost rapid prototyping
Affordable rapid prototyping equipment has always been a kind of Holy Grail for design engineers, who recognize the benefits but have found the hefty price tag often too difficult to justify. With the introduction of a $24,900 rapid prototyping machine last year, Dimension Co., a sister company of well-established Stratasys, was aiming to bring the capability to more of the masses. The strategy is paying off, reports VP and General Manager, Jonathan Cobb, who claims that sales of the lower-priced machine have exceeded their expectations. "Last year was great. We sold four times as many of the lower-cost units than the $60K machines that our parent company moved—and they did well too," he told Design News at the National Design Engineering Show in Chicago in February. Though key markets for rapid prototyping equipment are academics and design service companies, he says the technology is beginning to catch on with design engineers at OEM companies—presumably because the lower price tag makes it easier to justify. Having scored a success with its debut model, Dimension now is introducing a slightly higher-priced model, ($34,900) which it says will make at least one thing easier for engineers: No more fiddling with parts. The new machine uses a water-soluble material to form a part's supports, so that, "Instead of someone having to pry off or chisel out the supports by hand, they can dunk the part in a water-based bath and the supports simply dissolve," says Cobb. After Cobb asked us to try prying off some supports by hand, we think engineers will like the new water-based material. The big question is whether they can put together a convincing-enough ROI.
With a better understanding of materials’ response to load and temperature, researchers could potentially use the knowledge to improve design. The research could even help geologists studying plate tectonics.
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