I have to apologize for the delinquency of this posting, but it's not too often I reference the rpml. The processes usually discussed are somewhat redundant.
I was not surprised to read back a bit and see that service bureau prices seem to be dropping. This is a classic case of supply and demand. While the technologies discussed herein may contrast greatly from an Engineering viewpoint, they are really quite similar when viewed from the market.
These parts consistantly have accuracy no greater than two thousandths (vertical slice). Unfortunately there are only so many executives with the discernment to recognize the true merit of part iteration and verification in preproduction.
In cases of service bureau patterns being utilized in secondary processes such as RTV, Rapid Tooling or casting patterns, vital tolerances are often compromised during standard postprocessing procedures.
Perhaps it's time that service bureaus pursue other markets as well. A case in point being stressed is a recent quote we supplied to a customer. Our client was one of the larger casting companies on the Western coast of the United States. Our competitors estimate was from a service bureau using the Actua machine for patterns to be cast, quoting each set at $300.00. Our quote for the identical patterns were $2250.00 each having a contract total of $54,000 (U.S.). We won the contract.
This seemingly surprising result illustrates that many times the deciding factor in market response is not price but, as in this case, the customers requirements. The patterns had to meet tooling grade quality since they were intended for medical use. While being slower in build times the ModelMaker II by Sanders directly provided the tooling grade capability needed.
The classic "S" curve of marketing concept and precision parts seems to be reaching its upper edge and quickly approaching the saturation point. Technically savvy Executives and Engineers that realize its true worth in the manufacturing arena may be less "enlightened" amongst the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of smaller Manufacturers. These latter companies are interested in tooling grade patterns for "real life" applications.
We feel that this market has arrived.
Director of Marketing
Sigma Time Compression Technologies
For more information about the rp-ml, see http://ltk.hut.fi/rp-ml/
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