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As part of R & D for the Stratasys FDM Titan rapid prototyping system, several Beta sites were commissioned to test the equipment in their process. One industrial product manufacturer ended up using the Titan in a way it never anticipated. The Beta site was busy building various polycarbonate prototypes when a belt sander on its production line went down.

The 3-year-old table-top sander was being used to remove burrs from steel parts in the finishing step of production items. The sander's belt runs along a series of pulleys, which are constructed of cast aluminium. One of these pulleys had developed a crack, which idled the sander as well as production.

"I thought this would be a good opportunity to see how the polycarbonate material would hold up in a demanding application," says the Beta site fabrication manager Kirk Moswen. "I had a CAD model of the pulley drawn up, and we built it from polycarbonate on the Titan. It took only 2 or 3 hours to run the part. We bolted the pulley on and continued with production.

Although we have many sanders throughout the shop, most of them are continuously used. I didn't have to make the decision to pull a sander away from a less-critical production line. I was able to keep right on going. If we would have had to wait for a new part, that production line would have been down for a few days. It's been a month now, and the belt sander is still going strong.

"Now if anyone asks me about the durability of the rapid prototype parts that come off the Titan, I take them over to the sanding station and tell them the story. You can see the sparks flying off the sander and hear it grinding away - it really opens some eyes. I have an aluminium replacement pulley now, but I'm in no hurry to install it. With the way this one has performed, I want to see how long it lasts!"