Esco, Portland, Oreg. (escocorp.com), manufactures huge machinery. It's helpful, they say, to scale down large complex products to a model that will fit in a customer's hand.
In one meeting, for example, a discussion expected to last 20 min went 2 hr after a scale model for a new product came out. The ability to pick up the model for an enormous object, such as a drag-line bucket, lets those involved point to features and talk about details. The company prints rapid-prototype (RP) models on a Z810 System from Z Corp., Burlington, Mass. (zcorp.com).
Before using RP models, Esco ran into obvious barriers to prototyping large parts: Full-sized prototypes of sizable components are impossible to cart around. But the Z Corp. machine puts out small versions quickly that are easy to transport.
Esco also uses RP technology for design validation, FEA, investment casting, and several foundry applications. Design validation, for instance, lets company engineers identify and discuss design problems that are not obvious in CAD, and make adjustments before cutting chips. And Esco can investment-cast low quantities (typically less than 100 small parts) for lab and field testing in a period six weeks shorter than the time needed for conventional lost-wax castings.