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Old 08-29-2011, 06:46 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Rapid prototyping

Around the water cooler today myself and a friend were kicking around the idea of a rapid prototyping business and how viable it would be. I figured I'd pop on here and see what comes up since there's always so many ideas but there's remarkably few "finished" threads.

Basically set up some sort of low-cost, most likely garage based, operation built around us playing with the machines and occasionally making money on non-production run ideas. The pricing based around trying to pay back on the machines, not trying to get a ton of cash/quit our jobs sort of thing.

What would you guys do? Assuming there was a format/context/limitations of what could be done and they were stated from the get go.

What would you want built?
What would you be willing to pay for it?
How likely would you be to go "hey, that's neat" and then click to the next thread.


Just getting some ideas kicking around for the next watercooler session
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Old 08-29-2011, 07:00 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I think there are already some options. Alpha434 does the service and there might be others that publicly offer it.

I'm sure you could find a niche, so don't just pass it off.
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Old 08-29-2011, 08:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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quite a high cost to get set up, both in time and dollars. good luck with it!
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Old 08-29-2011, 09:17 PM   #4 (permalink)
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quite a high cost to get set up, both in time and dollars. good luck with it!
The technology is almost like printers as well, it changes often. What was a weak technology can be transformed by a new material.

There are companies that offered the service, I haven't checked on them lately. One of the originals started in Austin, I got to see some of the prototype runs. Now there's all sorts of rapid prototyping services that come up.

You should be able to email a file to an RP center and have them mail you the "print". If someone isn't doing that already, it should be on your list.
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Old 08-29-2011, 09:33 PM   #5 (permalink)
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shapeways does it. I think that is what you are talking about
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Old 08-29-2011, 09:36 PM   #6 (permalink)
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my wife and I had considered the very same thing. the main thing is the process and material very greatly for different applications. some material can be held to tight tolerances but is brittle, others are really durable but the resolution of the print is terrible.
so the main problem is what machine do you start with? what would your clients be looking for off the bat?
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Old 08-29-2011, 11:52 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I read a page about this kinda thing the other day. Jay Leno uses it to replace old parts from many of his old cars that can't really be reproduced. While some machine shops can re fabricate something, it won't always be perfect. With these printers and scanners, he pops a part in, makes a copy, and gets a mold made of the part to make out of metal. Pretty cool stuff.

My school had a 3D printer, but I never got to fiddle with it because I don't know any 3D programs. I really need to take some time and learn how to use ZBrush, maybe I'll go back and make myself a lil action figure
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Old 08-30-2011, 07:14 PM   #8 (permalink)
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My brother and I were thinking about using shapeways (I think) to design a motorized 50 round hopper shell. Still kicking around the idea, need to find a drive mechanism that is compact enough to make sense.
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Old 08-30-2011, 08:47 PM   #9 (permalink)
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We're both CNC machinists trying to justify buying 5axis equipment for the garage, if that puts anything in perspective.
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Old 08-31-2011, 01:26 AM   #10 (permalink)
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You flat out cannot do enough business in the paintball industry to pay for that level of machinery. I speak from experience.

The big time-wasters are sales and engineering solutions.

Of course, if you're familiar with enough alternate markets, you can alleviate some of those burdens by taking the low-hanging fruit in each market.
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