The manufacturing of prototypes and small series of parts, a typical SME activity, is drastically changing due to the introduction of Rapid Prototyping technologies. SME's have the assets to remain competitive in this field if they can adopt those new technologies and develop the required logistics for it. In many cases the information from which the parts are built need adaptation and transformation before it can be used for Rapid Prototyping. The parts coming from the machine need finishing and copying by special processes, often mainly manual, before they can be used functionally. It is of no use to be able to produce the part in a few hours if days are lost in all pre- and post-processing steps, from quotation until invoicing. It is the aim to set up a network that connects SME's offering complementary rapid prototyping technologies in different regions of Europe. This would allow them to use their capacity in a larger geographical market, while their sales channels in the local market can offer a variety of techniques that they can not justify in the limited market. The network should present several services that enhance communication and facilitate the logistics, especially when several SMEs work together in a large project. Envisaged services are:
- a data exchange service
- a ice
- a planning service
- a progress monitoring serv service
The network should use advanced communication tools and ISDN. The major benefit however is that it will be specifically tailored to the needs of the prototypers in an environment that places high demands on fast product development.