Re: 99 SME Conference

From: Chuck Alexander (
Date: Fri Apr 23 1999 - 04:17:42 EEST

At 12:27 PM 4/22/99 -0400, you wrote:
>Ok kids it's time that I comment on what I saw at this years exhibition, I
>did not attend the conference although I purchased the proceedings...

Since I attended the RP&M exposition, and our company was referenced, I'll
contribute an opinion.

First the fluff:

We consider the RP&M show & conference as something we should attend as
"buyers" as opposed to "sellers". That and the fact that we staffed a booth
at NDES in Chicago just last month explains why we were "NOT at the show";
although I am flattered being a "notable" and included in such august
company (LOL).

State of the industry:

Karl, I have to agree with both you and the one statement you quoted from
Terry Wohlers.

Like Harvest, we have experienced growth in the past 12 months. The growth
is due to 2 things; 1) The demise of Ply/Ex (and others?) has freed up
previously locked up market share --and more importantly-- 2) as prices
dropped in the SB market we found that our existing customers ordered more
(measured both by number of parts & revenue).

The interesting thing to me is that the additional orders are not for
additional prototypes, but for products which are closer to direct
manufacturing (e.g. QuickCast, tooling masters, & multiples of more
functional materials like SOMOS 8100, Durafom, etc.).

And this leads me to my agreement with the Terry Wohlers quote "The rapid
prototyping industry is questioning the future of its technology".

Just like prototyping is an evolutionary stepping stone in process of
bringing a product to market, isn't RP equipment and processes a stepping
stone to direct manufacture? I believe it is.

That being said, what is happening in the industry to bring us closer to

In SLA, equipment prices are going up with minimal or no throughput
improvements for a direct manufacturing application like QuickCast. There is
a dearth of functional materials, and the one bright spot (DuPont SOMOS 8100
series) has decided it's not worth their while.

SLS; the materials are coming along, but between depreciation of equipment &
labor for secondary steps (like infitrating, furnace operations, etc.) its
hard to get the piece price low enough to compete at significant quantities.

FDM; the depreciation is lower per machine & the materials are more
functional, but you need a fleet of machines to deliver in quantity.

Rapid Tooling; the rapid tooling technologies at best provide a rough
machined core & cavity. All the rest of the process of creating a tool is
untouched by RP. Why buy these technologies when for the same money you can
buy multiple high speed machining centers and support equipment? Is
"conformal cooling enough? Is the marketing "sizzle" enough? I don't think so.

Don't get me wrong; I love this industry. And, as long as things remain as
stagnant as they are, service bureaus will have a prominent place in the

Still the question remains. Is RP an evolutionary stepping stone? Or, is it
an evolutionary dead end?

but that's just my opinion.

Chuck Alexander

Solid Concepts Inc.
Rapid Prototyping Software & Services
fax 661/257-9311

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