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January 29, 2007
3D Printing Comes To The Desktop
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on MCADcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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3D Systems Corp. a leading provider of rapid 3-D printing, prototyping, and manufacturing solutions, announced its plans to introduce a revolutionary, fast, simple and compact new office modeler, the V-Flash desktop modeler, this summer.

The V-Flash desktop modeler can build ready-to-use, three-dimensional models within hours at home, school or office workstations. The cost-effective model-maker will enable designers, engineers, hobbyists and students to imagine, design and produce their ideas at their desks.

The V-Flash desktop modeler is the first product 3D Systems plans to bring to market this summer that is based on a breakthrough fourth technology platform. This innovative and advanced technology platform enhances 3D Systems' already comprehensive portfolio of Rapid 3D Printing, Prototyping and Manufacturing solutions. The company's development of cutting-edge proprietary, Film Transfer Imaging (FTI) technology enabled the development of this simple, fast, compact and affordable desktop modeler, a solution that the company expects will surpass all other current technology 3-D printers on the market.

"The development of the V-Flash desktop modeler represents a significant and important building block in our comprehensive strategy to provide our customers with solutions that transform the way they design and manufacture new products. Today's announcement that the company plans to introduce the revolutionary V-Flash desktop modeler this summer, also marks 3D Systems' unveiling of a new disruptive technology platform, a fourth platform we intend to leverage extensively in the coming years to launch additional, innovative solutions. We believe that this disruptive technology platform will enable us to broaden our marketplace reach and accelerate the adoption of this revolutionary technology," said Abe Reichental, 3D Systems' president and chief executive officer. "The exciting V-Flash desktop modeler is just what our customers have been asking for all along," continued Reichental, "an easy-to-use, plug and play, economical model-maker that expedites part delivery and revolutionizes concept design as we know it. With the capability to create stereolithography (SLA)-like quality, three-dimensional models in the office, home or school setting, and the affordability of this solution, we believe that this modeler will usher in a new expansion era of Rapid Prototyping to a broader range of market applications. As the company that invented SLA technology and pioneered the
creation of the entire Rapid Prototyping industry, we are enormously proud, yet again, to lead through another significant technology breakthrough as we make our final plans to commercialize this truly affordable desktop modeler later this summer."

The 25-by-26-by-27 inch V-Flash desktop modeler will weigh about 100 pounds and have a maximum build volume of 7 by 9 inches and 8 inches tall. With standard power requirements, plug and play set-up and simple operation, the V-Flash desktop modeler will be office, home and school friendly. V-Flash-produced models will demonstrate SLA-like accuracy, resolution and quality. The ready-to-use models will be ready for use, testing and verification within hours.

The V-Flash desktop modeler will be priced at $9,900, making it affordable to a wide range of potential customers. The V-Flash desktop modeler is expected to be available in the summer of 2007 in the United States.

More information on the V-Flash is available at

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

This could be good news for 3D Systems, a company that has had more than its share of revenue reporting, logistics, and production woes the past few years. With the announcement of the V-Flash modeler, the desktop is fast becoming highly contested real estate for so-called 3D printers. OK, so while 3D systems calls the V-Flash a desktop modeler, I’d classify it as a 3D printer based on its relative low cost, probable part creation speed, and its likely ease of use.

3D printing is a subset of the rapid prototyping technology that most people associate with the variation that consists of an inkjet printing system. In this type of system, layers of a fine powder (plaster and resins) are selectively bonded by "printing" a water-based adhesive from an inkjet printhead in the shape of each cross-section as dictated by a CAD STL file. This technology allows for printing full color prototypes, and is generally recognized as the fastest method for producing rapid prototypes. The company most associated with this technology is probably Z Corp.

3D printers can also feed liquids, such as photopolymer, also through an inkjet-type printhead to form each layer of a model. These photopolymer machines have a high-intensity UV lamp mounted in the print head to cure each layer as it is deposited. This type of technology is available from 3D Systems (MJM) and Objet (Polyjet).

3D Systems tends to keep their new product information close to the chest, so I’m going to have to speculate on the technology issues that follow regarding the V-Flash, not to mention its build speed, mechanical properties of the build material and finished parts, and the cost of the consumables. The machine is based on what the company terms Film Transfer Imaging (FTI) technology, whatever that is. I imagine this means that the V-Flash, as a desktop unit, does not deal with messy liquid or dangerous plastic resins. FTI seems like a film deposition method via some type of dispensed tape, building a model a layer at a time up using mechanical techniques to elevate the
model as layers are added.

When the V-Flash is introduced this coming summer, it will have some competition right out of the gate with the Desktop Factory 3D printer, expected to come to market in approximately the same time frame. The Desktop Factory 3D printer measures about 25 x 20 x 20 inches and weighs less than 90 lbs. The maximum build volume of the initial product will be 5 x 5 x 5 inches. The thickness of each layer is 0.010 inch. The company also says it will retail for $7,500.

Both of these machines have real potential in the bigger scheme of things with regard to a possible increasing demand for rapid prototypes, but there is no guarantee for success. Each company could potentially sell a ton of the machines, but I would have to imagine that margins will be extremely thin. Also, having great technology is one thing, but a solid distribution channel is just as important, and with the likely razor-thin margins, both companies will be challenged in getting their machines before the masses. In other words, resellers may not be beating the doors down for a opportunity to sell the machines, but I could definitely be proven wrong. However, both machines
seem to have great potential and may succeed as they fight for space on the desktops of new types of customers who previously could not afford this type of technology.

3D Systems is exhibiting at the upcoming SolidWorks World 2007 user conference in a couple of weeks. I’ll be attending and hope to see the V-Flash in action, because speculation is one thing, but seeing is believing.

The Week’s Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Eliona NV Selects CoCreate’s Software Over History-Based Solutions

CoCreate Software announced that Eliona NV, major player in industrial washing and drying systems, chose CoCreate’s OneSpace Modeling over competitive tools. The company cited three ways the software could help meet its quality and productivity goals:

Previously, the company designed products using parametric and non-parametric 2D software. But when Eliona investigated parametric 3D CAD tools, they saw productivity problems. Last-minute, unanticipated customer input couldn’t be included without schedules slipping. Even in small teams, designs could not be shared, as the intra-part and assembly relations needed to be completely understood before any one designer could make a
change. Since all machines are available in two mirrored versions, it was important to be able to change mirrored parts and assemblies with the same flexibility as the original design. With parametric solutions, the mirror operation would have lead to loss of parametric relationships.

MSC.Software's SimManager Helps TI Automotive Reduce Design Time

MSC.Software announced that TI Automotive has achieved $1.5 million in cost savings through their prior purchase and subsequent deployment of SimManager, which harnesses data produced in product development and saves time and costs with management and integration of engineering data within the IT infrastructure. The deployment of SimManager has allowed TI Automotive to gain additional collaborative abilities and create an enterprise solution that has delivered a 25% reduction in design time. TI Automotive is the only global supplier of fully integrated fuel storage and delivery systems for cars and trucks, as well as the leading supplier of fluid carrying systems
for braking and powertrain applications to automakers worldwide.

UGS Announces Teamcenter Product Portfolio Management

UGS Corp. announced Teamcenter for Portfolio Management, a new software offering designed to provide manufacturing companies with the portfolio planning and management tools they need to continuously ensure they are investing in the optimal mix of projects to maximize business growth. Teamcenter for Portfolio Management software establishes the foundation for managing innovation by providing the tools needed to keep investment decisions aligned with company strategy, while making certain projects are properly resourced and budgeted. Typically, companies use a variety of software tools for project and pipeline management. However, Product Portfolio Management (PPM) requires
support for strategic decision making and product planning on a collaborative basis, along with optimization tools that can effectively identify the right mix of project investments. In contrast to PPM systems based on ERP software, Teamcenter for Portfolio Management incorporates a company's product and process knowledge into strategic decision making processes.

SkyCross Drives Wireless Antenna Technology With PTC Mathcad

PTC announced that SkyCross is using Mathcad, PTC's engineering calculation software to optimize design requirements of its wireless antennas. In 2003 SkyCross began using Mathcad to help its radio frequency engineers perform many signal simulations and complex design computations in a lab setting where mathematical principals and variables can be easily controlled and adjusted. Before using Mathcad, SkyCross depended on manipulating lab-built models for a class of antennas, the Quadrifilar Helical Antenna. Mathcad enabled predictable antenna performance which led to faster development times and reduced costly product development processes.

Cimatron's New NC-Preview Quickly Calculates Iterations

Cimatron Ltd. announced that the newest version of its flagship product, CimatronE, will feature built-in NC-Preview functionality, graphically presenting NC procedure input data and approximated results within seconds. Iterations in NC programming are a natural part of the process, typically involving lengthy calculations and simulations that could waste hours of precious programming time. Cimatron's new NC Preview technology reduces long iteration cycles. Activated before the procedure is calculated, Cimatron's NC-Preview visualizes the effects of changing various input parameters such as machining strategy and tool size and length. It also visualizes the expected stock
after machining and analyzes anticipated remaining material.

Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at
Email Contact or 408.850.9230.

This Week

Lead Story

3D Systems Announces Desktop ModelerProduct and Company News

Co-Sponsored Research Supports Using TransMagic For CAD Data Exchange
  • Autodesk Revs Up Production At Motorcycle Company
  • Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy Uses Pro/Engineer To Create Lego Mindstorms Robots For Students
  • Schott Systeme Showcases Advanced 3D Modeling
  • Autodesk Announces Inventor Of The Month For January 2007
  • ADINA System 8.4 Now Available For Analyzing Structural Interactions Of Solids, Structures, And Fluids
  • hyperMILL In Pole Position For AutoSport
  • NEi Nastran V9 Selected As Product Of The Year Finalist
  • PTC Windchill Now Supports Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • Beasy Signs New Distributor
  • 3DVision Technologies Leads Competition With Most COSMOSWorks-Certified AEs
  • Surfware’s TrueMill Technology Earns Awards
  • BEASY Releases New Version Of Its Corrosion Modeling Software
  • NC Graphics To Preview 5-Axis Machining At SolidWorks World 2007
  • ACTECH Expands Use Of Moldflow Simulation
  • Tormach Tooling System Expands Line
  • SCATE Technologies Joins Dassault's CAA V5 Adopter Program
  • Delcam's PowerMILL Keeps TREK On Track
  • Autodesk Updates Impression Technology
  • ANSYS To Release Q4 Earnings
  • LMS Test.Lab Helps DaimlerChrysler With New Bus Designs
  • Using Nastran For CFD And FSI
  • SofTech Announces Q2 2007 Financial Results
  • BEASY Releases Version 10 Of Its Fracture Simulation Software
  • CADopia 6 SP3, Based On Open Design And IntelliCAD technologies
  • TactonWorks At SolidWorks World 2007
  • Agile Advantage 2006 Releases Service Pack 2
  • Mahle Filtersysteme GmbH Expands Use Of Moldflow Injection Molding Simulation
  • CAD Schroer Partners With MDCGroup For Pro/ENGINEER Support
  • Applied Production, Inc. Announces Special Price for ProFab LiteRelated MCAD News

    Biofuels: A Look At Future Automotive Fuels
  • Delphi Launches New Technology For Sensing Diesel Oil Condition
  • Altair to Acquire Controlling Interest in Hicare, Italian Developer of Business Intelligence Software
  • Gain Insight Into Delphi Corp.
  • Altair OptiStruct/Analysis Solver Technology Integrates With AMLS
  • Lattice Technology Signs New Czech Republic Reseller
  • Adept Technology Expands Into Rapidly Growing Solar Power Market
  • Leeport Group form Partnership with Metris; Initial order for Metris equipment worth more than 4 million euro
  • Collaboration Announced To Streamline Optical Engineering Simulation CompatibilityCorporate Moves

    Right Hemisphere Appoints New VP Of Worldwide Marketing
  • MSC.Software Announces Key Executive Promotions
  • MSC.Software Accepts Resignation Of Two DirectorsIndustry Events

    2007 ANSYS U.S. Regional Conference Series
  • Moldflow Holding Better Plastics Design Seminars Across the U.S.
  • 3D Systems Holds Grand Opening For New Global HQ
  • DesignCon 2007 Exhibition Plays Host To Cutting-Edge Design Tools
  • 3D Systems' CEO To Present At Investor Day Grand Opening
  • Radan Sheet Metal Software Open House
  • CD-adapco Announces Flow, Thermal, And Stress Simulation Seminars
  • 2007 North American International Auto Show To Host Automotive Education Day Today

    You can find the full MCADCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.