RE: Fabber manufacturing

Date: Fri Aug 06 1999 - 23:38:51 EEST

Marshal and others,

Unless there is a change in the equipment that makes it more affordable,
more accurate, more repeatable, have better tolerance.... Then the thought
of using these technologies for manufacturing will simply not happen. Here
at Williams we have tried on several occasions to use the SL technology in a
production environment and it simply falls short. That is not to say that
it will always fall short but that it does now!

On every occasion that we have tried to use the Sanders equipment it too has
fallen short! These and ALL of the RP (fabber if you prefer) technologies
are simply not ready to take on the "production" task whether it be short
run or long haul! We are still a young industry and as such every new facet
that leads us to the end product will be the "hot ticket" at the moment and
the one that actually does propel us to the next level may be years in
coming. We keep hearing that the manufacturers are building bigger better
faster machines but what we really need is a change in technology that is so
different that it will equal the initial introduction of RP to the world.
Bigger faster better will not get us to production part producing equipment.

We are on the way and as with children we must crawl before we can walk and
then run, we still need to crawl for a while!

Karl R. Denton
Lead Engineer
Williams International

        -----Original Message-----
        From: Marshall Burns []
        Sent: Friday, August 06, 1999 7:54 PM
        To:; Sean M. Gladieux; List: Rapid
        Cc: Linda Thurman; Maurice Cathalifaud; Randy Rua
        Subject: Fabber manufacturing

        Dear RP-world,

            It looks like we've got some debate going in here on the merits
        feasibility of using fabbers ("rapid prototyping") for
manufacturing. I had
        dinner last night with some friends in the Internet business who had
        interesting insight on this subject. I'll be interested on the
comments of
        people on this list to these ideas.

            One of the reasons the advent of the Internet has been so
impactful is
        what it does to the VALUE CHAIN for the distribution of products.
One might
        draw the modern, pre-Internet value chain as follows:

                Manufacturer --> Wholesaler --> Distributor --> Retailer -->

        What the Internet does is that it opens the opportunity for direct
        interaction between the manufacturer and customer, so that the value
        can be reconfigured:

                Manufacturer --> Customer --> Manufacturer

        The last link above reflects the fact that with the Internet the
        has a greater opportunity to interact with and influence the
        If I were writing this posting in a graphical medium, the above
would be a
        cycle from manufacturer to customer and back. The reduction of
        intermediaries in the relationship between manufacturer and customer
        eliminates costs and time from the distribution process, and
        communication. The result is greater satisfaction of the customers'
        faster, and at lower cost.

            The optimal structure is not always this fully collapsed value
        but there can be opportunities for an Internet intermediary that
adds value
        to the product or to the customer/manufacturer interaction:

                Manufacturer --> Web portal --> Customer

            But instead of going into details on this, let's change back to
        subject of the use of fabbers in manufacturing, and let's look at it
        this point of view of its effect on the value chain in the design
        manufacturing of products.

            The idea is that what the Internet does to the value chain for
        DISTRIBUTION of products, the fabber does to the value chain for the

            So the value chain for manufacturing in the industrial era might
        viewed as:

                Concept --> Prototype --> Tooling --> Production -->
        Distribution --> Product

        What the fabber does is eliminate the need for tooling and mass
        AND ALSO distribution because the customer (who may be a business or
        individual) may very well be operating the fabber on-site or at a
local 3-D
        Kinko's. Also the concept of a prototype becomes fluid because the
        can iterate the product, try out each iteration, and either keep
        or stop iterating, depending on when satisfactory performance is
        Which iterations are prototypes and which are products? Such
        distinctions are not important. The value chain becomes:

                Concept --> Iteration --> Concept

        where the last link, as in the above Internet example, would be
shown as a
        cycle if I were writing in a graphical environment.

            Now I'm sure a lot of people on the list are getting ready to
respond to
        this by arguing that for most products a complete and ready-to-use
        cannot be made on a fabber because of limitations in materials, the
need for
        assembly of mechanisms, and the high cost of operating fabbers. To
all those
        people, I ask you to think back to the days of the Model T Ford and
        yourself if you could have foreseen interstate freeways (autobahns)
        suburban shopping malls. Think back to IBM's first computer, the
650, and
        ask if you could have foreseen the Internet. Think back to Goddard's
        suborbital rocket launch and ask if you could have foreseen people
        on the moon. Of course today's fabbers cannot make even a small
fraction of
        the catalog of modern products enjoyed by people around the world.
        tomorrow's fabbers will.

            The next step in this discussion could be to look at what
happens to the
        total product value chain when you combine the effects of both
fabbers and
        the Internet. I'll leave that for another posting.

        Best regards,
        Marshall Burns
        Ennex Corporation, Los Angeles, USA, (310) 824-8700

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