3-D printer demand grows in 2002
FORT COLLINS, COLO. - Demand for three-dimensional printers, relatively inexpensive machines that turn out models, is growing faster than the more-expensive, conventional rapid-prototyping machines, according to a report by Wohlers Associates Inc.
``3-D printing was a bright spot in 2002,'' said Terry Wohlers, president of the research firm in Fort Collins. The report said sales of 3-D printers jumped 34 percent in 2002, to 656 machines, from 489 in 2001.
3-D printers sell for about $40,000. High-end rapid-prototyping machines can go for several hundred thousand dollars.
``As the industry develops and matures, there will be a dramatic increase in the application of 3-D printing technology, possibly at the expense of the conventional systems,'' Wohlers said.
Rapid-prototyping machinery typically experiences years of growth, followed by a period of decline. But in the long term, the future is bright, Wohlers said. One reason: Companies are using rapid-prototyping technology to produce finished goods, a process called rapid manufacturing.
Wohlers Associates contacted 26 equipment manufacturers, 40 service providers and 45 industry experts to compile the report.
New owners outline plans for Orange
COMPTON, CALIF. - The new owners of Orange Plastics LLC plan to share products made at the facility.
Vanguard Plastics Inc. and Alpha Industries Inc., a unit of Lyndhurst, N.J.-based Sigma Plastics Group, jointly bought the assets of Compton-based Orange Plastics on Oct. 28. The companies set up a new company, VS Plastics LLC, to operate the Compton plant.
The sometimes-competing extruders will share products made at the plant, which started Nov. 1 under the new name, said a Vanguard spokesman.
The facility will supply T-shirt and merchandise bags exclusively to Vanguard, and stretch film and can-liner products to Alpha, the spokesman said.
Both companies already have other facilities in California, but will use the plant to support customers on the West Coast, the spokesman said.
``The investment we are making in VS Plastics has come at a time when we were looking to increase our capacity in our stretch film and can-liner product lines,'' Alfred Teo, chairman and chief executive officer of both Sigma and Alpha, said in a news release.
The companies together paid $9.93 million to buy the Orange assets, according to court filings. Orange had entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Oct. 6 and had started a search for a buyer. The company closed its second plant in Crittenden, Ky., earlier this year.
RTP to supply Noble with compounds
WINONA, MINN. - Compounder RTP Co. has struck a deal to supply injection molder Noble Plastics with the metal injection molding compounds that RTP showcased at NPE 2003 in Chicago.
``This is exactly what we talked about at NPE,'' said Bob Wick, structured material product manager at Winona-based RTP. ``This is a way for a molder to take existing plastic equipment and molds and shoot metal parts into them. It's a relatively inexpensive way for them to diversify.''
Noble, a custom molder in Lafayette, La., plans to use RTP's PowderFlo-brand metal compounds in parts for aerospace, automotive and medical markets.
``This technology meets the needs of our client base,'' Noble President Missy Rogers said. ``We're not making Frisbees and plastic forks - we're making heavy parts for industrial uses.''
Rogers founded Noble in 2000. The six-employee firm now operates four injection presses and expects to post sales of $1.5 million this year.
Under the deal, Noble is licensing PowderFlo technology from Latitude Manufacturing Technologies of Hackettstown, N.J. Latitude, a joint venture between Rutgers University and private investors, received the technology as a gift from Honeywell International in 2001.
End users license the technology from Latitude, and then use materials produced by RTP.
RTP made its first metal compounds in late 2002 at its Winona plant.
``Honeywell developed the technology, but didn't fully commercialize it,'' Wick said. ``So there were several customers that had developed applications who now had no way to get the material. That's where we came in.''
Privately held RTP also operates plants in South Boston, Va.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Indianapolis.
The company has 600 employees and, it posted sales of about $150 million in 2002.