Re: NASUG and query

Date: Wed Jul 09 1997 - 15:59:07 EEST

Kevin Robertson

In a message dated 97-07-08 20:36:22 EDT, you write:

 2) There have been a few postings regarding desk top modeling and the
 tremendous market potential that exists for such a product. If such a market
 exists wouldn't you be seeing major players such as Kodak, Xerox or Hewlett
 Packard creating these products? I'm curious as to the thoughts of the group
 on where this demand is going to be satisfied, the existing RP companies or
 a major corporation. Maybe such a product is being developed by the larger
 corporations, but I'm not aware of this. If it is not being developed, maybe
 the demand is being exaggerated?

Of course we can't know what may suddenly appear out of an unusually creative
lab, but I don't think we should expect much for a number of years. This is
for several reasons - primarily because so much progress must be made in the
diverse areas of software, fabrication, and scanning in order to provide
that "kit of tools" which allows the synergy we've seen in 2-D. In theory,
several multi-billion dollar corporations could apply the resources required
to greatly shorten our wait - but the gamble is just too great for management
focused on the next quarter or three. [One might think that at least one
management team, perhaps involved in computers, software, scanning, and 2-D
printing, would look at "desk top publishing" and realize what explosive
growth would be possible if they extended THEIR "kit of tools" from 2-D into

Probably the most frustrating thing for people who have attempted to overcome
that problem (not to mention the "NIH syndrome") is the difficulty of getting
people who are accustomed to dealing with current problems to see future
potential. As one who proposed "Three-Dimensional Printing" to fifty of the
most likely major corporations and research groups back in 1988 (including
the ones you mentioned), there's been some consolation in stumbling upon a
surprising number of historical accounts regarding how difficult it is to get
people to see long-term potential in revolutionary technology.

I'll spare you most of my collection (somebody ought to write a book -
including electricity, telephone, transatlantic airline travel, etc. etc.)
but will just mention one particularly amusing quotation you may have already
read (xeroxed from p. 48 of the book "Creating the Computer,' without note
on author):

"After the war, when Eckert and Mauchly turned to more advanced designs,
opposition from established figures in computing continued. Howard Aiken,
who had struggled at Harvard before the war to seek support for constructing
a large electromechanical calculator, opposed their projects, suggesting,
"There will never be enough problems, enough work, for more than one or two
of these computers..." "

This quote prompts another comment - it's amazing how irresistible it seems
to be for established "experts" to look at future technology in the manner of
Aiken, and say, with great authority: "there's no market for it," or "it'll
never be inexpensive enough," or "you could never get the layers to adhere
well enough."

The fact that early machines are still relatively expensive and difficult,
and sales are disappointing, should be no great surprise. The pioneering
groups should be applauded for how far we've come in a few years and with
relatively modest research budgets and enormous technical challenges.
 Remember also that Xerox took over twenty years and twenty million dollars
(wouldn't that be well over 200 million current dollars?) to get from the
first patent application past the niche market of offset printing masters to
the popular success - and more to get to the "desk top").

The question remains - "When."

Norm Kinzie

Laminar Systems, Inc.
(617) 444-6910

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