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Alibre Design (now Geomagic) is a parametric computer-aided design (CAD) software suite developed by Alibre for Microsoft Windows. Alibre is a brand of 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD), a global, integrated-solutions 3D printing company based out of Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Founded in 1997, Alibre began working closely with Microsoft in 1998 to develop the first web-based collaborative 3D design environment. The environment operated on a web-browser and allowed multiple users to work on the same design simultaneously. Following this development, Alibre received a patent for "System and method for solid modeling," protecting their technologies for generating 3D geometries across a high bandwidth, distributed network. Alibre's purported aim in this development was to give businesses a cost-effective way to geographically distribute teams by enabling networked design environments without incurring large capital expenditures.
Alibre Design is based on the ACIS modeling kernel from Spatial, and a 2D constraint system from Siemens PLM, among other technologies. It allows users to create modeled representations of concepts to facilitate design and manufacturing, with 2D and 3D functionality. Parametric solid modeling is driven by intelligent dimensions, meaning that the software automatically recomputes designs to accommodate changes to a single dimension, thereby maintaining the design's dimensional accuracy without necessitating manual adjustment of each dimension.
Alibre's products fall into three categories intended for different users and applications. Alibre Design Personal Edition is a basic 3D modeling application for beginners and hobbyists, whereas Alibre Design Professional and Alibre Design Expert are 3D and 2D modeling applications suitable or intended for professional use.
Some of Alibre's key design tools include:
In 2005, Alibre introduced the free CAD product Alibre Design Xpress as part of an experiment with packages and pricing. Alibre Design Xpress was reviewed by Cadalyst the same year and was awarded the label 'Highly Recommended'. Alibre Design Personal Edition has since replaced Alibre Design Xpress and is available for $199.
Alibre includes free training through a built-in help section in the software. Free training is also available via online tutorials and videos.
To get direct technical assistance for Alibre products, customers must buy a software maintenance plan, which gives access to support via telephone, online ticket system or live chat. The live chat can be accessed directly from the CAD software interface for direct communication with an Alibre engineer. Though purchased technical assistance plans are fairly commonplace with technical computer applications, the built-in chat option is currently unique to Alibre.
In 2009, Alibre made drastic cuts to the price of its Alibre Design Standard software, reducing the price from $999 to $99. This 'permanent' price decrease came after several rounds of Alibre's experimenting with packages and pricing. Then CEO Paul Grayson said the price reduction was possible because opening up Alibre from a premium-priced niche market to the mass market "more than made up in volume what we lost on price." Alibre claims it wants to "change the landscape of 3D mechanical CAD/CAM software by providing full parametric technology to anyone that needs it." It is speculated that this move represents Alibre's shot at expanding its market to the growing pool of DIY consumers. Alibre's Professional and Expert packages with advanced features are sold at higher price points.
In 2011, Alibre partnered with 3D Systems at Maker Faire, including its software with the sales of 3D Systems' 3D printers. Following this bundling, 3D Systems acquired Alibre Designs. According to 3D Systems CEO Abe Reichental, acquisition conversations began before the bundling deal due to recognized "synergies in the markets" each company was trying to serve. Since the acquisition, Alibre's business model has expanded from software products to an affordable design/3D printing combination targeted at the growing DIY market of hobbyists, enthusiasts, model makers and small businesses. 3D Systems and Alibre reportedly share a vision of 'democratized' CAD and manufacturing technologies. 3D Systems pursued this acquisition as part of its strategy to accelerate adoption of affordable 3D content-to-print solutions, but had been careful to position Alibre as just one software option for customers who might want a 3D modeling tool, but has begun to investigate software options following the new interest in 3D printing spurred by easy-to-use CAD tools like SketchUp. 3D Systems says it plans to build an arsenal of software under the Alibre brand.