Headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Stratasys, Inc. (SSYS) is a leading manufacturer of in-office rapid prototyping (RP) and manufacturing systems for automotive, aerospace, defense, industrial, electronic, medical, education, and consumer product OEMs. With the use of patented Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM ) and PolyJet rapid prototyping processes, engineers and designers use the RP system to create precise physical models, tooling, and precise three-dimensional (3D) prototypes out of plastic and materials using a workstation-based computer-aided design (CAD). The same prototypes are used in testing form, fit, and function throughout the design and development process. Essentially, Stratasys' systems allow design engineers to model highly complex geometries in a wide range of high-performance engineering materials with in-office RP systems that require no chemical post processing, special venting, or facility modification.
To get a better grasp of how the technology works, it is important to understand the process involved in developing the 3D model. First, a 3D geometric model is created on a CAD workstation. This model is imported into a proprietary software program that is downloaded into the RP system. A spool of modeling material feeds into a moving FDM extruding head, which heats the material into a semi-liquid state. This material is then deposited one layer at a time on a temperature-controlled modeling chamber. As the material is injected on the work base the material solidifies, creating a strong laminated model.
In addition to prototyping machines and materials, SSYS offers two software products (Catalyst and InSight) that convert 3D CAD databases into data formats for use in the company's prototyping machines. Catalyst is an entry-level software product that enables users to build prototype parts with one push of the button. InSight increases build speed and allows designers to engage in individual editing. According to the Wohlers Report 2007, Stratasys supplied 41% of all systems installed globally in 2006, making it the unit market leader, for the fifth consecutive year. The company holds over 180 granted or pending RP patents worldwide.