For almost 100 years following Thomas Edison's first recording, not much changed in audio technology. Then high fidelity, stereo, 8-track and cassettes, compact disks and digital audio tape emerged. And new innovations continue with the increasing popularity of digital audio files. Now, Dell Computer (Round Rock, TX) is helping to expand the capabilities of digital audio files. Formerly, these files could only be played on a PC desktop. However, the company's digital audio receiver (DAR) connects with other audio and video equipment, allowing the files to be played on these formats.

Developing the DAR quickly was critical to the company. Therefore, the company chose 3-Dimensional Services and its sister company Urgent Plastic Services (both located in Rochester Hills, MI) to help produce the prototype components for the front main bezel and function controls. The two companies offer rapid prototype services, including design, engineering and analysis, in-house tool construction and complete building of first-off and low- to medium-volume production. Urgent Plastic Services specializes in injection-molded plastic prototype parts.

Dell provided the companies with CAD files for seven components. First-off parts only took 13 days to produce. However, when those parts were not usable, the company was given in-house access to design and engineering terminals, team leaders and technicians. Suggestions were offered to improve the part's manufacturability and function, without altering appearances. These modifications were approved and implemented quickly.

Design modifications involved adding structural stiffening and strengthening elements to the bezel's backside. The goal was to provide structural integrity without increasing bulk, raw material requirements and costs. Through design and engineering analysis software, and some trial and error, the optimum locations and minimum material usage configurations for these stiffening ribs were developed.

Within 2 months, from start to finish, 5,000 components were ready for DAR launch and beta testing.

For more information on rapid prototyping, call 3-Dimensional Services at 248-852-1333, visit or Reply 4.