...And Going...

From: Rob Connelly (Becton Dickinson & Company)
Date: Thursday, January 12, 1995

From: Rob Connelly (Becton Dickinson  & Company)
Date: Thursday, January 12, 1995
Subject: ...And Going...
Fellow RP-ers,
Ok, first, add my name to the list of those who precede their mailing with the 
disclaimer that they never intended to jump into the thick of this name thing at 
all.  We can certainly say that it has awakened us all.

My slant is a little different from what I have seen so far (isn't everyone's?)  I 
find myself compelled to stand up for the poor and defenseless creature - the name 
"Rapid Prototyping."  My argument is as follows:


I find it somewhat disturbing that many of the respondents to this argument (ahem, 
"discussion") draw much of their motivation from within - rather than from the 
perspective of their customers.  In fact, in at least two cases their customers 
were portrayed as somewhat annoying with their pesky wants and needs.  Let's not 
focus so exclusively on what this technology could possibly do someday if only...  
and forget about what the users NEED from it today AND tomorrow.  Now that THAT is 
off my chest...


(1)  RAPID - I am also quite surprized that many of you are knocking the rapid part 
of the equation.  I recall Joe Mooring discussing these technologies as 
"alternative" ways of fabrication, and that is just what they are.  Your customers 
are weighing the various tradeoffs (time, cost, quality) associated with these 
alternatives, and selecting the lesser of the evils.  I have news for many of you - 
the technologies that I know of today that are being called RP are pretty crummy in 
all categories except time.  For the majority (not all, I know) of applications the 
materials are lousy - getting better every day, but still lousy.  The cost is not 
particularly cheap - again getting cheaper every day but so are the alternatives.  
Accuracy (in ALL THREE axes, mind you - your customers don't just ignore that 
z-axis, you know) is getting better every day, but the machining alternative 
practically defines accuracy.  What it comes down to is time.  If you're not 
turning these things around fast then you're not doing your customers any big 
favors - Ma and Pa's CNCs 'R Us down the street can make you look bad, I guarantee 
it!  Bottom line - if this stuff wasn't fast, 3D would still be trying to sell 
their first SLA-1.

(2)  PROTOTYPING - I'm also willing to go out on a limb here and state that the 
overwhelming majority of your customers pick up the phone and call you because they 
want a PROTOTYPE.  They won't know what you're talking about if you tell them that 
FREEFORM SOLIDS.  They'll hang up and call someone who can make them a PROTOTYPE.  
Maybe it's not even a true prototype, but they think it is and they're gonna use it 
like it is, so I say it is.  Chances are (I know, not in every case), (1) they're 
not going to ask you to start full-scale production, (2) the thing they want you to 
make has something in common with a product they intend to manufacture someday, and 
(3) they will use the thing to learn something about the alleged product.  This has 
all the signs of being some form of a prototype.

Now for the flames...  But wait!  Before you accuse me of not taking the long view 
of these technologies, let me say a few more things.  We all have big plans for 
where these unnamed technologies are going, and we're not limiting ourselves to 
prototypes (although I suspect that the "rapid" is here to stay.)  However, it is 
still a long way before even the best of them is ready for the big time; as such, 
renaming the whole lot in anticipation is a bit premature.  Incidentally, my whole 
career at Becton Dickinson hinges on the future success here of this thing some of 
us call Rapid Tooling (I like that name too) but my strategy toward reaching that 
goal is based on fulfilling customer needs; not merely submerging myself in neat-o 
technologies with scientifically derived nomenclature.  Today, my customers tell me 
they want prototypes rapidly, tomorrow they say they want the real thing - you 
guessed it - rapidly!

Have a great day!

Rob Connelly
Becton Dickinson Research Center
21 Davis Dr.
Research Triangle Park, NC  27709
(919) 990-2263

"The opinions expressed above are my own.  I do not type on Becton Dickinson's 
behalf.  They can't help it, all they did was hire me!"

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