BPM Technology Inc. is introducing a model-making machine that will bring three-dimensional printing into the office. The Personal Modeler is being developed to be mass produced, the company said. The machine will make its debut at the Society of Manufacturing Engineers' show, AutoFact '95, scheduled for Nov. 14-16 in Chicago.
The Greenville, S.C., company said the desk-side machine produces models via computer-aided design software. Usually, model making is done in specialized settings like dedicated work spaces. The new machine uses the same patented jet-droplet deposition technology used in BPM's first product, introduced at the 1995 National Design Engineering Show, held March 13-16 in Chicago.
Other companies have entered the market with ink-jet modeling even though BPM said it has patent protection, said Pat Lanfear, national sales manager.
``All we've done is send nice, cordial letters to a few companies saying, `You might want to take another look because you're infringing on the patent.' And, there are some companies trying to bring in the jet type of technology from Japan in an attempt to avoid the patent. That makes it a little difficult because we have to go through the trade bureaucracy,'' Lanfear said.
``The one good thing is that our backers, the venture capital people, are 150 percent behind the company. They're the ones who bought the patent and they're interested in defending it at any level,'' he said.
3D Systems Inc. of Valencia, Calif., a leader in the rapid prototyping field, plans to introduce an office modeler next year and may preview it at AutoFact '95. Art Sims, 3D chairman and chief executive, said his firm is aware of BPM's patents.
``After careful searches, we're convinced we don't infringe. Our technology is quite different and wholly unique,'' he said.
Albin A. Hastbacka is president of Sanders Prototype Inc. of Wilton, N.H., a BPM competitor that makes the InkJet Model-Maker. Of the BPM letter, he said, ``We received a letter from them about four months ago calling our attention to their patent and we responded to their attorney. Of course we were familiar with the patent before that.''
Hastbacka described Sanders Prototype's product as different from what the BPM patent covers. He said the firm had been informed by the U.S. Patent office that the government has allowed Sanders Prototype claims.
BPM's new system translates CAD designs into models up to 10 inches by 8 inches by 6 inches compared with 6 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches for the previous design, the company said.
The deposition material is slightly different from that used in initial concepts in that it produces models that are slightly flexible, a characteristic that reduces brittleness.
The Personal Modeler will be priced at $35,000.
``The line will be expanded by two alternate units by mid-1996. They will be lower in price than the base model and smaller in overall size but will have the same sized chambers,'' he said.
BPM stands for Ballistic Particle Manufacturing. The company is privately owned and was funded in 1992 with $5.5 million in venture capital.