CHICAGO - A small rapid modeling machine, described as a three-dimensional printer and fax machine, will be put on the market in July by BPM Technology Inc. of Greenville S.C. BPM calls the machine the Personal Modeler and said it will be priced at about $35,000. Other rapid modelers cost about $200,000.
The system transforms computer-aided design solid models into physical models that can be used for tactile and visual design verification. The models also can be used for communication of concepts and for manufacturing and marketing evaluations, said Peter S. Petrunich, director of market research.
He said the system does not compete with equipment sold by companies like 3D Systems Inc., Cubital Ltd., DTM Corp., Stratasys Inc. and Helisys Inc.
``We complement them. ... We should play a real role in the growth of the entire field of rapid prototyping,'' he said. ``It's like comparing a PC with a mainframe. We're the PC; they're the mainframe.''
Representatives of other rapid prototyping companies at the National Design Engineering Show in Chicago, where BPM exhibited its system, agreed with that assessment.
Petrunich said the Personal Modeler uses a drop-on-demand piezoelectric jetting system that jets microparticles of molten plastic to the part being built.
``We call this digital microsynthesis. That's because it places microscopic particles of a thermoplastic to build the model, and it's digital because a particle is either placed or not placed at every point in the machine's build space,'' he said.
The build volume is 10 inches by 8 inches by 6 inches.
The company said its deskside-sized machine uses pellets of ``a simple non-toxic thermoplastic'' and stereolithography software, which is virtually an industry standard.
``This has the potential of becoming a true desktop modeling system. Conceivably, each designer could have one as a peripheral device on a computer-aided design workstation for overnight generation of various designs,'' Petrunich said.
He said the company expects strong interest from companies making the small, high-tolerance, ergonomic and convoluted shapes typical of many medical devices.
BPM stands for Ballistic Particle Manufacturing. The company is privately owned and was funded in 1992 with $5.5 million in venture capital.