Everyone's probably pretty tired of this string by now, and it seems to
me we have been over this ground before in the past year or two, but I was
out of town during the most recent discussion and wasn't able to
contribute. I'll try to be diplomatic.
As another market researcher and consultant (although mostly not on RP),
I can tell you that, from what I know of Terry's methods, he does a pretty
decent job. He and I have discussed research methods a few times and,
although his forecasts of the RP market from the past were more optimistic
than mine, they were actually much more conservative than some other, rather
poorly done studies that were floating around. I tend to be conservative
(I have all these scientists and engineers and consumer psychologists
around here who tell me some things just can't be done by waving your hands),
but even my numbers were too optimistic. Some market research firms seem
to believe that if you don't make a forecast with big growth figures, you
can't sell any reports. Also, they seem to believe that if you can't put
the $1 billion number in there somewhere, Business Week won't pick up on it
and no one will buy your report. Maybe they are correct; they seem to sell
a lot of reports.
I did not attend the SME conference, but it seems to me the Chasm, as
Elaine called it, has been a long time coming. I prefer to call it the Hype
Trough, which is what usually follows the Hype Wave in the Hype Curve and
it will likely soon be followed by another wave, once someone breaks
through one or more of the barriers that RP is facing on the technology side. As
Elaine said, it's a natural phenomenon with most all technologies and my
research experience verifies that. Someone else in the discussion said 2
to 5 years. 5 years is about average, so count back to the last
breakthrough and look around at where people are working on the next breakthroughs
(cost, accuracy, metals, other materials, take your pick). Geoffrey Moore
calls it Crossing the Chasm.
In the meantime, Karl is picking up all of this evidence that business is
good for many RP people. It sounds like anecdotal evidence, but if he can
verify it across the entire industry, then maybe he should be selling a
contrarian report. As with most new technologies, they don't actually go
into decline; it's just that the growth isn't 100 percent per year anymore.
Al's point about finding some better measures for the industry is well
taken. I have found that the least accurate predictions of the future are
based on gathering data from vendors about their prospects. They are
obligated to be optimistic, or they should be in some other business. They may
give you accurate numbers for last year, but if too many of them give you
overly optimistic numbers for the future, your projection becomes a wildly
optimistic exponential growth curve. Each may be accurate about the overall
market potential, but the market researcher has to remember that they are
all competitors, some of whom are going to take some of the customers the
other person is counting. You can't double count.
What we need is a better estimate of the potential users. That is also
very difficult. Some attempts have been made, based on the number of
existing and projected users of CAD solid modelling seats, divided by some number
of multiple CAD seats using each RP machine, which can range from one to
40. Our discussions about use of RP in the arts and crafts and the
Personal Factory and all of the other potential unknown new users and
applications we can't even think of make it even more difficult. The only thing we
can say for certain is that fabricating physical objects by some automated
machine is not going to go away.
For those of you that read to the end. Thank you for your attention.
Lightman, Allan J wrote:
>Karl, Elaine, Mike, Terry, and RPers in general,
>I encourage you to direct your focus onto how to improve the measurement
>the industry's health. If you are disatisfied with how things are done,
>then suggest a better way or pitch in to improve the available measure.
>This community is populated with skilled people who comprehend
>and understand the importance of accurate measurments. You have
>throughout the industry, you are respected leaders in this RP community,
>you you are well connected through the SME. Use your influence for
>improvement - come up with a better measurement process.
For more information about the rp-ml, see http://ltk.hut.fi/rp-ml/
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