Re: What's in a Name ...

From: Marshall Burns (Ennex Corporation)
Date: Wednesday, January 18, 1995

From: Marshall Burns (Ennex  Corporation)
To: RP-ML, Brock Hinzmann (SRI  International)
Date: Wednesday, January 18, 1995
Subject: Re: What's in a Name ...
Dear RP World,
     The recent discussion on names for this industry has been very lively and interesting. Thank you Yakov for starting it. I'm sorry, but business has kept me from reading most of the postings until a few days ago, so I may be entering the conversation after interest has died down. In a recent paper, I took a few paragraphs to discuss this very issue. So maybe the best contribution I can make is to quote from this paper. The relevant excerpt is appended to the bottom of this message.
     On the lighter side of the issue, Brock Hinzmann wrote on 1994 01 04:
>     ... one of the terms I saw for RP
>during the year was The Santa Claus Machine (Wired magazine). 
     We should give some credit for using this terminology in our field to Brian Kellock, whose report on the First European Conference on Rapid Prototyping, appearing in the journal Machinery and Production Engineering on September 18, 1992, spoke of future "Santa Claus factories." Kellock attributed the term to Nigel Calder, who had used it to refer to a space-based, nanotech, anything-maker.

Excerpt from "Automated Fabrication: The Freedom to Create," 
in "Technology Management," Elsevier, December 1994
Adapted from Keynote Address to AlliedSignal conference, July 19, 1994
Copyright (c) 1994, Ennex Corp.

     Some proponents call this technology "rapid prototyping" because industrial prototyping was the first major application of the new additive fabricators, like the StereoLithography Apparatus (SLA) from 3D Systems. Hundreds of millions of dollars in productivity gains have been realized by the few hundred companies around the world who have been using these and similar machines to make prototypes of new machine designs. But to call these machines "prototypers" misses the whole point of what is happening here. Calling an SLA a prototyper is like calling an automobile a grocery cart because one of its first important uses was in rounding up supplies for the family, or like calling a book a scripture because one of the most popular books ever published has been the Holy Bible.
     SLAs and similar machines are not prototypers, although they may be used that way. These machines are fabricators, because they create new solid objects out of amorphous material and computer data.
     Today, the field is still so new that we have to call these devices "automated fabricators." This is so that we don't confuse them with human fabricators, the craftsmen who still work with great skill in fashioning objects by manual methods, usually out of sheet materials. Forty years ago, when IBM launched its Model 650, it was called an "electronic computer," because the term computer at the time referred to a human practitioner we would call today a key-punch operator. These human computers operated machines called tabulators, which were basically big, mechanical adding machines. So IBM at first had to distinguish its machines by calling them electronic computers. Today, the word "electronic" is no longer necessary, and everyone understands that you mean a machine when you speak of a computer.
     In the same way, in ten or 15 years, we won't need to speak of "automated" fabrication anymore. When you speak of fabricating some design, or "fabbing" it, for short, people will understand that you are talking about using a machine to render in solid material a design that yesterday existed only as so many bytes on a computer disk. Automated fabrication will become just fabrication, and everyone will know what you mean.
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