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.
"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 Systemes 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, among others.