Re: unclear expressions

From: Ian Gibson (
Date: Fri Oct 31 1997 - 03:15:46 EET


A couple of years ago when the big name debate was at its highest I made a
prediction. I predicted that the abbreviation 'RP' would prevail. Just as
IBM, ICI, ESSO came to represent companies that produce things other than
business machines, chemicals and oil, RP would come to represent a process
that produces things other than prototypes.

I suggest you go back and read the mailings. Both you and Norm started
talking about 'rapid prototyping', but as soon as it was possible you
switched to 'RP'. What was the reason? Easier to type? Definitely. How about
comparison with other acronyms? Easier to say than 'FFF' or even '3DP'?
Possibly. Could it also be that when we use the term 'RP' we generally know
what we are talking about? My feeling is that now the term 'RP' doesnt mean
the same thing as 'rapid prototyping'.

I very rarely say 'rapid prototyping' these days. I do say 'rapid tooling'
and 'rapid product development'. I do also use the terms 'RP' and 'RP
technology' quite a lot. Things change.

Incidently, I also remind you of a conversation we once had about Parkinsons

At 02:22 PM 10/30/97 -0500, you wrote:
>> 1. "Rapid Prototyping" - seems most focused on purpose and speed,
>> "additive," "subtractive" or "hybrid". Therefore, I wonder if a handy
>little 3-axis
>> milling machine with
>You're absolutely right. The difficulty is that RP begins to lose its

Bingo - but are you talking about 'RP' or 'rapid prototyping'?

>meaning, making it difficult to communicate, when you include conventional
>> Also, "formative" methods which others have speculated on may eventually
>be included,
>> even if they are not "layer-by-layer."
>> 2. "Free-Form Fabrication" - similar to RP but without being narrowed
>> "prototyping."
>Agree again, although I know many companies that use RP devices for
>non-prototyping applications.
>> 3. "3D Printing" - This term suggests a special relationship to ordinary
>> "printing" (instead of something new and exotic, such as "holoforming").
>> From the 2D meaning, it seems natural to assume an orientation toward
>> general "communication" of 3D information (and/or "visualization," &
>As usual, I agree with all of your comments. I hope that "3D printing"
>develops in the direction that you describe. For now, we know products
>such as Actua, Genisys, and Z402, and some choose to describe them as 3D
>printers. If you look at what these products do and how they operate, they
>are faster, lower-cost, easier-to-use, and office-friendly variations of
>RP. What tends to confuse this labeling and categorizing of products is
>when you throw in a product such as Model Maker II from Sanders because it
>meets much of this criteria, but it was not designed to be a quick concept
>modeler, and that is (in large part) what the other 3D printers were
>designed to do.
>My comments are not intended to start another terminology debate. The
>bottom line is that it doesn't matter what you call these devices, as long
>as you accurately communicate your thoughts.
>Terry Wohlers
>Wohlers Associates, Inc.
Dr. Ian Gibson
Associate Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering
The University of Hong Kong
tel: (852) 28597901
fax: (852) 28585415

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