RE: 99 SME Conference

From: Karl Denton (
Date: Fri Apr 23 1999 - 05:16:07 EEST


Thanks for the great come back!

This is certainly the type of response that I hoped would come of my initial

The tone of Terry's executive summary ( and yes I plan on spending the
dollars to get the full report! ) is one of demise not promise. I hope the
full report is different. I can not imagine some of the companies using
this technology to cast parts NOT using it in the future or at the very
least using one of these technologies to produce some form of fast
inexpensive tooling to produce wax patterns. Unless the equipment
manufacturers come out with some really new and innovative technologies then
the industry will not change (evolve), tooling aside the fundamental
processes have not changed for some time. The thing that worries me is
companies like 3D Systems re-inventing the wheel and then charging more
money to obtain it. This will hurt the industry more then any thing else.
This equipment although a valuable tool in prototyping will be a tougher
sell at that higher dollar amount and we have already seen a struggle in how
to find the other 90% of the world that knows little or nothing about this

Everything has to evolve (sounds like something out of a Star Trek movie)
and this industry is no different. I did not get the impression of Terry's
statement that I quoted implied evolve, rather it implied dissolve. All of
the folks that I talk to in the industry simply do not give me this
impression. I think that Terry's report may be more likely to cause folks
(new comers to the industry) to give RP a second thought then anything else.

Karl R. Denton
Advanced Technology Consultants LLC
4778 Greenview Ct.
Commerce Twp., MI 48382
Phone: 248-363-1478
Cell: 248-789-6410
Pager: 248-523-3318
Fax: 248-363-7488

Helping you excel through the use of Advanced Technologies

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Alexander []
Sent: Thursday, April 22, 1999 9:18 PM
To: Karl Denton
Subject: Re: 99 SME Conference

At 12:27 PM 4/22/99 -0400, you wrote:
>Ok kids it's time that I comment on what I saw at this years exhibition, I
>did not attend the conference although I purchased the proceedings...

Since I attended the RP&M exposition, and our company was referenced, I'll
contribute an opinion.

First the fluff:

We consider the RP&M show & conference as something we should attend as
"buyers" as opposed to "sellers". That and the fact that we staffed a booth
at NDES in Chicago just last month explains why we were "NOT at the show";
although I am flattered being a "notable" and included in such august
company (LOL).

State of the industry:

Karl, I have to agree with both you and the one statement you quoted from
Terry Wohlers.

Like Harvest, we have experienced growth in the past 12 months. The growth
is due to 2 things; 1) The demise of Ply/Ex (and others?) has freed up
previously locked up market share --and more importantly-- 2) as prices
dropped in the SB market we found that our existing customers ordered more
(measured both by number of parts & revenue).

The interesting thing to me is that the additional orders are not for
additional prototypes, but for products which are closer to direct
manufacturing (e.g. QuickCast, tooling masters, & multiples of more
functional materials like SOMOS 8100, Durafom, etc.).

And this leads me to my agreement with the Terry Wohlers quote "The rapid
prototyping industry is questioning the future of its technology".

Just like prototyping is an evolutionary stepping stone in process of
bringing a product to market, isn't RP equipment and processes a stepping
stone to direct manufacture? I believe it is.

That being said, what is happening in the industry to bring us closer to

In SLA, equipment prices are going up with minimal or no throughput
improvements for a direct manufacturing application like QuickCast. There is
a dearth of functional materials, and the one bright spot (DuPont SOMOS 8100
series) has decided it's not worth their while.

SLS; the materials are coming along, but between depreciation of equipment &
labor for secondary steps (like infitrating, furnace operations, etc.) its
hard to get the piece price low enough to compete at significant quantities.

FDM; the depreciation is lower per machine & the materials are more
functional, but you need a fleet of machines to deliver in quantity.

Rapid Tooling; the rapid tooling technologies at best provide a rough
machined core & cavity. All the rest of the process of creating a tool is
untouched by RP. Why buy these technologies when for the same money you can
buy multiple high speed machining centers and support equipment? Is
"conformal cooling enough? Is the marketing "sizzle" enough? I don't think

Don't get me wrong; I love this industry. And, as long as things remain as
stagnant as they are, service bureaus will have a prominent place in the

Still the question remains. Is RP an evolutionary stepping stone? Or, is it
an evolutionary dead end?

but that's just my opinion.

Chuck Alexander

Solid Concepts Inc.
Rapid Prototyping Software & Services
fax 661/257-9311

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