Columnists Amy Minnick Solidscape brings CAM to the little guy

Solidscape brings CAM to the little guy

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Craving out a niche in one's local community can mean consistent, loyal customers and customization is one way to do that. Twenty years ago that meant wax carving which was cumbersome and time consuming. Today, technology has caught up with customer demand. Solidscape, Inc. produces two desktop machines designed to help jewelers create highly precise wax masters perfect for casting. For the local jeweler it is custom efficiency at its best; for Solidscape, Inc., it is a specialty.

Solid-tree-AprilSolidscape, Inc., designs, develops, manufactures and sells modelmaking hardware and software. Headquartered out of Merrimack, New Hampshire the privately-held company was founded by the same man who helped develop radar tracking technology. Today they market to a myriad of different industries including: medical/dental, aerospace, automotive, sporting goods and jewelry. With more than 2500 systems installed in over 20 countries, they continue to discover new uses for their products every day.

Bruce Lustig, product marketing manager, has been with the company for 10 years and has watched customer demand for more intricate, complicated jewelry pieces grow. "I've watched technology advance over the years. From hand carvings to computer-guided mills; each served a purpose in their own time. But today, customers want intricate micro-pave's or hollowed out shanks and undercuts which make it hard for mills to keep up."

Are you a cutter or a grower?
Today's Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) model technology comes in one of two forms: subtractive or additive. Subtractive technology cuts away material to create a mold by drilling out each and every detail, hence the name Cutter or Mill. Additive technology creates 3-D images by printing ultra-small layers of wax-like build material on top of one another until the model is finished, substantiating its nickname Grower. The result is a very accurately detailed piece ready for casting.

Solidscape's T76 and R66 systems combine a proprietary thermoplastic ink jetting technology and a high-precision cutter with ModelWorks graphical front-end software. The results are prototype models with an achievable accuracy of 0.001 in. per inch. These machines can build in slices or layers as small as 0.5 thousandths of an inch. (image above: Solidscape's T76 and R66 systems create prototype models with an achievable accuracy of 0.001 in. per inch. These machines can build in slices or layers as small as 0.5 thousandths of an inch.)

"Solidscape entered the jewelry industry by marketing to manufacturers. Today we still service that market but, over the last few years, we've noticed a marked increase in the number of retailers acquiring the tools necessary to design their own pieces," states Bruce. "Our machines are small and easy to use which makes them the perfect choice for a retailer. Not to mention their great return on investment."

Solid-AprilThe T76, which retails for $45,650, will pay for itself in 21 months if the user produces 30 models per month. R66 users recoup their investment in just 15 months when averaging 30 models per month and paying $35,650.

 

"We've revamped our customer service to cover more retailer-centric issues," states Bruce. "We always provided a high quality product but, now we have the tools and support in place to really help our customers whether they are manufacturers or retailers."

For those in the industry that consider CAM pieces less desirable than hand carved pieces Bruce has this to say: "The machine is a tool. Your mind is the real designer. Wax carvings are simply a physical expression. True jewelry design lives only in the mind. Our machines help designers express their talents."

Go to the Solidscape website, www.solid-scape.com, for a list of resellers around the U.S. or around the world or call them directly at 603-429-9700.

 

 
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