I thought I would send a few comments out about this years RP show and
conference in Dearborn, MI...
First the show:
Z Corporation was there showing off their new machine and may have taken the
prize for the most crowded booth. The machine that they had running seemed
to be complete and ran well! It was quiet and fast. John Kawola-Sales
Manager had a miniature engine block (about 6x8x6 in size) that he was
letting break pieces off from. The "out of the vat" strength was better
then I expected! He said there was several different materials that had
been identified that one could infiltrate the part to increase the strength
even more. One being a wax that you dip the part in and then remove
quickly. The other a super glue that is dripped onto the part and can be
sanded after it has hardened. I have several parts that were sent to be
prior to the show for some investment casting trials and I must say the
finish is very good on both wax and hardened parts. (As a side note the
parts went into dip the week prior to the show and other then a minor
de-wetting problem with the face coat the parts are doing well, I will
up-date the list when the parts have gone through burnout and we pour
aluminum into the mold.) I think that Z Corporation is one to watch and
after seeing the equipment in action all I can say is WOW!
Extrudehone was there showing off their PROMETAL RTS-300 system that uses
the MIT technology to produce metal parts or mold halves. Al though they
did not have a machine there the parts and process looks great. The machine
has a build envelope of 12x12x10 and the comment was made that there was
talk of a larger machine. I have not used parts produced from this machine
and the few samples that I held at the show looked great so this is another
one to watch.
Dynamic Tooling - Jet Mold, Introduced a process/product called PolySteel.
The process is available for licensing and they will provide complete
training. I spent 20 to 30 minutes at the booth because the tools they had
there were astounding and a great deal larger then any thing that had been
produced via KelTool. These tools once polished had the finish and had the
weight of steel tools. The material is poured over the master and is fast,
the average tool will be ready in 2 to 3 days! One interesting thing to
note is that they had tools produced from several RP equipment manufacturers
and the results were the same throughout! Watch out KelTool!
These three vendors stuck out in my mind and as for the rest of the show
there were an astounding number of material (silicone, polyurethane...)
vendors. There were at least 5 silicone rubber vendors that produced rubber
of every color and hardness, why there is even a UV curable silicone rubber
system! I suppose that the competition is good but the attendance at these
booths was thin. There was also a larger number of metal casting vendors,
I guess that most have come to use if not embrace the RP pattern production
methods. There were of course the old timers, both service bureaus and
equipment manufacturers and each it seems to have matured as there were
several occasions when they were overheard giving the competition the leg up
things like "well if you need that tight of precision you should use" or
"that guy has a process that would be better suited for that type of part"
I must say it was refreshing!
As I walked through the show I spoke with nearly all of the principles of
the equipment manufacturers and it was clear that times are getting better.
I was told by several that revenue for the first quarter 1998 was up between
20% and 30% over last year. It seems that the manufacturers are finding
ways to get in touch with the "fruit at the higher branches of the tree".
Now for the conference:
I sat through about half of the talks and while the presentations were
quality presentations I must admit that I don't feel like I had learned a
great deal from them. I wonder if there is a chance that SME could seek a
more technical talk from its speaker list. Before I get blasted from the
above comments let me say that I have always made this comment after this
show and I have been speaking at it or attending it since 1993! I have
always felt that the technical content has been less then what I would give
or want. On the other hand the keynote was as always worth listening and
Terry Wohlers talk was thought provoking. The proceedings was this the
largest it has been since the conference started and carrying it around was
sort of like carrying the phone book of a large metro area!
I heard number of varying levels for attendance one was around 2500 for both
conference and show.
All said and done my hats off to Linda Johnson and SME for a job well done!
Karl R. Denton
Advanced Technology Consultants LLC
4778 Greenview Ct.
Commerce Twp., MI 48382
Temporary Web Site: http://www.dentonco.com
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