By Terry Wohlers
Note: An edited version was published in Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 6, No. 3, 2000, MCB University Press. Copyright 2000 by Terry T. Wohlers
Increasingly, RP service providers and their customers are given the opportunity to conduct everyday business on the web. In January of this year, for example, Quickparts.com launched a web service for quoting and purchasing RP parts. The site is built around a quoting system that automatically evaluates a user's solid model to produce a quote and lead time. Quickparts.com is dedicated to the production of SLA, SLS, and FDM parts.
3DQ Concepts (www.3dq.com) is also using the web to streamline the quoting process. The company offers simplified ordering of parts from its Z Corp. Z402 3D printer. The website permits you to click on buttons that specify the part size and material infiltration type and immediately produces a price. When you click on the "order now" button, www.3dq.com takes you to an on-line order form, permitting you to indicate the type of payment and delivery. Pricing at www.3dq.com is shown below.
|Maximum part size||Wax infiltration||Resin infiltration|
Maximum part size:Small: 100 x 100 x 50 mm
(4 x 4 x 2 inches)
|Wax infiltration: $69||
Maximum part size:Medium: 100 x 250 x 50 mm
(4 x 10 x 2 inches)
|Wax infiltration: $159||
Maximum part size:Large: 200 x 250 x 50 mm
(8 x 10 x 2 inches)
|Wax infiltration: $399||
Maximum part size:Full: 200 x 250 x 200 mm
(8 x 10 x 8 inches)
|Wax infiltration: $799||
Source: 3DQ Concepts
Bits2parts.com is a new web-based service that focuses on the needs of buyers and suppliers of rapid prototyping services. It was announced at RP&M 2000 in Chicago in April. Bits2parts.com joins 3Dshare.com as a part of Spatial Technology's PlanetCAD.com, an on-line engineering service powered by 2,000,000 lines of code. Spatial is the developer of the popular ACIS solid modeling kernel. Bits2Parts.com permits users to rapidly produce a request for quotation (RFQ). At the center of the service is an on-line directory system that routes RFQs to one or more service bureaus.
Protomarket.com was also announced at RP&M 2000. It permits service providers to bid on RP jobs submitted by potential customers. This online "reverse auction" environment ensures low price transactions from a pool of qualified service providers.
SupplierMarket.com is yet another online marketplace, with a focus that is much broader than rapid prototyping and tooling. The service enables users to produce RFQs and review the capabilities of suppliers. After a live, online bidding session, the buyer chooses the supplier that best meets his needs.
In the not too distant future, RP service providers and their customers will use the Internet to conduct a large part of their business. Services, such as those discussed here, will help to make this a reality sooner than many had expected.