Re: To many SB's

From: cwho (
Date: Thu May 28 1998 - 08:44:52 EEST

 A long late night reply about too many SB's

Terry Wohlers 5/27/98 5:19 PM WROTE:

> About 10 years ago, there were
>an estimated 2,000 scanning and plotting service bureaus, but now there's
>only a few hundred.

Terry has a very different idea about what a "scanning and plotting
service bureau" is than I do. Ten years ago I could not go to my local
repro or service bureau and get a large format plot or a large format
scan. Now I have get these services performed weekly. In addition five
years ago this was an additional charge on my quotes. Now I know these
costs with 100% confidence and they are included in my base bid.

If there are fewer "scanning and plotting service bureaus" then it is
because there are fewer companies that consider this their primary
business. If you ask HP, Encad, Roland, etc if they think their sales
of large format printers and scanners have dropped over the past 10 years
 I assure you that they will tell you that they have have not. This is
not because all of the large companies have brought these services in
house although many have, but because these services have become
mainstream components of the output available from desktop machines
running sub $1000 software packages.
>reference "Do these sculptors use CAD solid modeling? from Yakov

I will join Elaine, Michael et al and yell

Our shop currently produces between one and two 3-d models a week. These
are within the envelopes of the mid to large RP machines are the price
points are just on the low to acceptable ranges for some RP technologies.
 My turn around is 5 to 8 days (if you can book your project 3 weeks
ahead of time.) We have the shortest turnaround in my area and command
some of the highest prices as a result. I have shown clients the
collateral slicks from 3-D Systems Actua and Saunders and they are
incredibly excited about the possibilities.

However, the reality and the dream are still separated by a huge gulf. I
see three main stumbling blocks. The first two are the big ones:

Problem: End to End integrated software solutions that integrate 3-d
output in an open and widely adopted format.
- Possible Solution: A new or existing format or company must become the
"ADOBE Postscript" of 3-d.
Problem: No nonsideration of 3-D output in the MAJORITY of 3-d design
process flows. (sorry list but if you consider all of the computers out
there, mech design constitutes only a fraction of the 3-d visualization
 - Possible solution: One companies will gain a huge market edge by
substantially redefining how 3-d output is integrated into a desktop
design process. Consider LOTUS 123 and MacDraw as synonyms.
Problem:Price point - yep 100+K to get an RP system running (including
support systems, labor, overhead) is too high.
- Possible solution. Yakov has given us one and proved his point several

   Vendors and those with a stake in RP development need to look beyond
the mechanical design paradigm in order to grow their products. If you
consider only the traditional mechanical design, industrial design,
moulding etc markets I would expect that Terry's speculation on the
state of the market is probably accurate. However, lurking on this list,
you see how Michael knows the answer to texture mapping problems from
sculpture and the medical gang have been pushing the color technologies
for years. New problems create new solutions and new markets.

RP vendors et al would do well to look not at the development of machine
tools and mech design equipment but at the development industries like
color printing if they truly want to enter the mainstream. Consider
that 15 years ago you got the first look at a color press job when you
pulled a copy off the web press and looked at it in the pressroom. Now
digital color match prints are part of the design process and accurate
color printers are available to every design professional and, via cheap
service bureaus, every desktop computer user. In the past three years
software vendors have developed programs that integrate accurate color,
fonts, page layouts from start to finish. From this I mean that a
designer knows that at ANY point in the design process they can print out
a copy of their work... and review it and communicate with it. They know
that this output accurately represents their ideas to date. It is
relatively easy to get this output, not too expensive (although not too
cheap either) and it is not a song and dance and not a huge production to
get the output.

My brief post a couple weeks back about needing some topography modeled
for a Caribbean atoll resulted in quotes that had over an order of
magnitude variation! (OK, to those that responded, the files had
problems etc etc, etc. ..They are now available from Merrick in a mesh
rather than contour format) This demonstrates that the process is
immature and that users and potential customers are not working on the
same page. However, if my customer, a cartographic firm, had a good
service bureau that could create a LOM relief routinely from their data,
I have no doubt that there would be a ready market. Despite the valiant
efforts of Darius and Otto et al at Baxter labs, last time I checked on
this project, it was still struggling on the ever intractable issues of
file translation. Certainly, on this project, the data exist in
sufficient detail, the machinery exits with sufficient availability ,
the money exists in sufficient supply.

As always, I start to ramble,

Dreaming about retiring my exacto knives, dremel tools, sanders, and yes
even our laser cutter.....


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