From CAD model to prototype: quality parts "speak" for processes at 3-Dimensional Services.

Position:Rapid prototyping - Company Profile - Cover Story

It's late in the evening, just outside the conference room at the headquarters of 3-Dimensional Services, a rapid prototyping firm located in Rochester Hills, Michigan. It's the night before the company will make a critical presentation to a potential customer, and from inside the room, voices resonate as a very frank and open discussion is held regarding the tools and technologies that will sway the decision ill the firm's favor.

"There's no doubt about it," one voice injects into the conversation, "plastics are continuing to gain more importance in virtually every sector of manufacturing. At the presentation, we have to emphasize our ability to produce plastic prototype components fast."

"Let's not overlook one of the oldest processes," a second speaker presses forward, "because, since the Bronze Age, mankind has been forming and shaping metals. Our stamping capacities should be heavily stressed."

"The flexibility to cut and weld myriad shapes and contours," a third speaker says, "using lasers is critical to the speed and precision for today's rapid prototype operations. Laser processing abilities should be the priority of our presentation."

"Lasers, shmasers," someone from the back says, "that's old technology ... give them something new, like hydroforming. Explaining the advantages of hydroformed parts is at the top of my list."

"Wait, lest we forget," cuts in another, "machining, turning and milling operations make parts. Machining is the strength we should highlight."

At this point, the speakers all at once toss out opinions, and among the jumble are heard words like vibration welding, reflex tooling, high definition stamping, stereolithography, tube bending, and more. Just when it seems that a consensus will never be attained, a distinguished-sounding voice brings order to the room.

"Everyone, please, settle down," this elder voice pitches to the others. "We need unity to present a strong message that today's rapid prototype shop has to be a combination of technologies, a combination of manufacturing disciplines, and a combination of knowledge and experience, l know. I've been sitting in this room for over 10 years, almost since the beginning, and virtually every project I've witnessed has been completed with teamwork, not individuals.

"For you younger guys, you for example, the portable barbecue grill in the corner and the lawn mower deck hiding over there by the plant, of course stamping and deep draw dies are important to you...

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