History of RPC

Idea and Determination brought MSOE the RPC

It had its meager beginnings, but MSOE's Rapid Prototyping Center has grown to be one of the best in the country. It is hard to believe that it all started nearly ten years ago with a videotape that inspired Dr. Dan Brandt. Due to that video, a lot of hard work and hundreds of thousand dollars later, MSOE became the home of a new Rapid Prototyping Center in 1991.

In the afternoons, after work, Dr. Brandt taught industry courses here. One of his classes was Designing with Plastics. After class one day in 1990, a student handed him a video on Stereolithography and asked him to watch it. Dr. Brandt had never heard of Stereolithography, but watched it out of courtesy to the student. Watching the video may have been one of the best decisions Brandt made. Immediately, he knew he was looking at a big future industrial breakthrough.

Brandt wanted MSOE to be the first active U.S. school in Stereolithography. He proceeded to contact the company and have a salesman come in and talk to twelve representatives from MSOE. The presentation was going well until someone brought up the dreaded question on how much this would cost. According to Dr. Brandt, "Everyone had a good laugh and left."

That was not enough to stop Dr. Brandt; he was determined. Tom Bray and Tom Davis joined him in an effort to raise money for a Stereolithography (SLA) machine. They contacted companies to donate a small amount of the money needed to purchase the machine. In exchange for donating, MSOE would make parts for them. Progressive companies were also invited to seminars on SLA where Brandt, Bray and Davis received positive feedback as well as some money. A National Science Foundation (NSF) grant was also applied for. The NSF agreed to grant MSOE $80,000 if MSOE could match it. With industrial donations of $25,000 each, the university was able to match it and the Rapid Prototyping Center (RPC) had its start.

The first RPC was located in a small room in the Johnson Control Lab. There was one machine, the SLA, Dr. Brandt and one graduate student. Neither Brandt nor the graduate student had any experience with the SLA, so they spent a week training in California. Then they were ready to work with Snap-On Incorporated and Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) as their first members. Harley-Davidson, Kohler and Master Lock were also among the early members of the Consortium.