First there were low-cost 3-D CAD programs. Then there were
relatively inexpensive 3-D printers. Now there's a pretty aggressively-priced
3-D CAD/3-D printer bundle which just hit the market thanks to a partnership
between Alibre and 3D Systems Corp.
Alibre, which markets a professional 3-D CAD package for
under $2,000, has teamed up with 3D Systems to address what Alibre CEO Paul
Grayson sees as a real opportunity to serve the needs of do-it-yourselfers
(DIYers) and professional engineers who are looking for affordable ways to
bring ideas from concept through prototype. The partners are offering two
bundles: A $1,500 package that includes Alibre Design Personal Edition, which
includes parametric modeling of parts and assemblies and 2-D drawings, along
with 3D Systems' Rapman build-your-own 3-D printing kit; and a $4,999 package
for professional use that includes Alibre's Professional Edition along with 3D
Systems' BFB-3000 pre-assembled 3-D printer.
The bundles target the swelling ranks of hobbyists
interested in soup-to-nuts DIY technology in addition to professional engineers
who either want a low-cost solution to perform on the job or who are looking to
do projects at home and can't make use of their high-end CAD programs used in
the office due to licensing restrictions.
"This is the first time, for such a low price, someone can
buy a hardware and software combination and literally take an idea they have in
their head and turn it into a physical product that they can touch, feel and
pass around in a matter of hours," says Alibre's Grayson.
Lingering economic woes probably won't hurt Alibre's pitch
as engineers, especially those in small companies where budgets are tight, are
likely interested in any solution that delivers value for a reasonable price.
There's also the public's growing desire for out-of-the-box experiences, driven
in part, by plug-and-play kinds of technology solutions that are now
mainstream. In either case, the bundle is likely to play well to the audience
the partners have targeted.
Other companies in the design tool space have also amped up
their low-cost offerings as of late. In addition to Alibre and SpaceClaim
, Corel is the latest player to
release a low-cost CAD offering with its recent
announcement of CorelCAD
. High-end player Dassault Systémes now has DraftSight
, a free 2-D CAD product and community that
lets users read, write and share DWG files and Autodesk offers AutoCAD LT,