Report from Delcam’s European press conference

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Earlier this week I jetted off to Milan for the Delcam European press conference. Despite the weather (I clearly brought the rain with me) it was an interesting and informative visit with trips to Sandvik and Mazak, both users of Delcam’s CADCAM software.

Delcam has grown steadily since being founded in 1977. Just in the last ten years revenues have increased from £17.0 million to £31.8 million. Over 220 people are currently employed at its Birmingham headquarters, with more than 300 in the company’s overseas subsidiaries (one of which is Delcam Italia in Milan). Customers in a broad range of industries use its software and in fact, the company recently celebrated its 35,000th customer.

Presentations at the press conference covered highlights and new developments in its various product ranges including PartMaker, PowerSHAPE, PowerMILL, ArtCAM, FeatureCAM, Delcam for SolidWorks (above) and PowerINSPECT. A lot of these developments have already been or will be covered in the software reviews section of the magazine by Al. For instance in the June issue’s Reverse Engineering supplement he wrote a review of PowerINSPECT 2011.

However, what really interests me is Delcam’s dedicated healthcare division, which was only established a year ago and since that time has experienced a 50% growth in dental solutions and a 350% in orthotic solutions. In fact, as Chris Lawrie, Delcam’s healthcare business development manager, said orthotics is the fastest-growing area of Delcam’s business. But this is not just down to its software solutions, which include DentCAD and DentMILL programs for the design and manufacture of dental restorations and the OrthoModel and OrthoMill software for the development of orthotics, but also the development of its own hardware. These iSeries hardware products for the orthotic and dental markets integrate with Delcam’s software to provide a complete solution.

iQube is a dedicated 3D foot scanner to capture data for the design of orthotics. It was launched in May 2010 and designed by Delcam in association with a panel of orthopaedic, podiatric and orthotics experts. This portable scanner, weighing just 14kg, can be used to capture data directly from the patient’s foot. It can also be used to scan casts or foam-box impressions. The data collected is accurate to within 0.4mm and high quality 3D images can be produced in seconds. As Lawrie says, its a niche market but growing very rapidly. In fact, in just seven months since launch Delcam had sold 100 units.

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Delcam is now creating other products around iQube such as the soon to be launched multifunctional iQube stand. Although currently the recipients of insoles are either professional sports people, health service patients or those in the Ministry of Defence, Lawrie predicts that in the not too distant future all of us will be able to purchase our own customised insoles. Sounds pretty cool!

I was also intrigued to hear of Delcam’s involvement in a number of R&D projects. Of the various projects that Jan Willem Gunnink, Delcam’s manager of R&D projects, mentioned in his presentation, one of the two that particularly caught my interest is RECLAIM, a £1 million project undertaken by a consortium of eight organisations to develop improved methods for the remanufacturing of high-value engineering components.

The other is the $AVING project, which has received an investment from the UK government-funded Technology Strategy Board, to develop lightweight and sustainable products via material design optimisation and additive manufacturing. Other members of the consortium are Simpleware, Exeter University, 3T RPD, Crucible Industrial Design, EOS UK and Plunkett Associates. This certainly sounds interesting and something we may follow up on in Develop3D Sustainability so keep posted.

The press conference concluded with a summary by Chris Edwards, Delcam’s European business development director, as to what we’d learnt over the past two days. The resounding message I left with is that this is a company creating CADCAM systems with the customer in mind. Obviously a key to its continued success.

Then it was back to ‘Blighty’ but not before a delay at Milan airport due to rainy and stormy weather, which it seems has followed me home.