>So what would Dan Rather be telling us after the polls closed?
that this was not a scientific poll rather a quick look at what current
thinking was. Only 26 devoted RPers cast 146 votes. Some only cast one,
some cast 2-5 votes. A total of 146 actual items were suggested that could
be voted on.
a quick 2cents worth written only as a commentary not fact. the topics
defined here were by category (price, process, production, software,
communication, standards, materials) not individual items ....... Hope you
enjoy the comments whether you agree or not. Hope it stimulates thought as
well as actions.
The Rapid Prototyping User Community Speaks
At the beginning of 1999 rapid prototyping experts were beginning to say
that after eleven years the market seemed to be shifting directions. In
order to determine if this was true, a recent poll of the rapid prototyping
mail list, RPML, shows that the user community wants better results from
existing machines while looking to the future of the technology. Using a
list of items generated by the group, the entire list could pick their top
five wishes. The results of this poll seem to indicate that the user
community has definite needs and concerns about the technology and how it
best benefits them and their companies.
Number one on the voting list was engineering like materials from current
RP systems. While material suppliers face a daunting task of creating
material for existing machines, the user community expects better and
better materials faster and faster. This top wish included expectations
that these new engineering type materials would create parts quickly and
have the ability to be used in functional testing like engine manifolds,
heads, and automotive transmissions. Coupled with the need for better
material properties was the call for realistic and fair prices for both RP
equipment and resins. The user community not only wants new materials
quickly but also at a low cost.
While the need for engineering type materials was the number one wish, the
wish for a standardized RP-machine independent benchmark/test part followed
a close second. Efforts in the past have failed to identify such a part
or group of parts. The only part ever identified as a test part was
created by Ed Garguiulo while working at Dupont, now DSM-SOMOS, and is
known as the User Part. While this part was created as a benchmark for SLA
machines, it has to be scaled to fit other systems and direct correlation
between these RP systems is lost. Also the NASUG adopted a Kodak part as
their benchmark rapid tooling part but this part has never been adopted by
other user groups or vendors. Votes for standardized testing methods
(RP-machine independent) and unified quality standards and/or parameter
(RP-machine independent) show that the user community recognizes the need
to test their system against a known and recognized standard in order to
produce quality parts. Without the ability to benchmark against standards,
the user community realizes that getting to direct production with current
technology will never happen.
Communication problems was third on the vote list. The idea behind the wish
list was to allow the user community to vocalize and identify the direction
that RP technology seemed to be moving, however, many users focused on the
RPML itself and voted to set RPML netique rules. Others looked beyond the
frustration of nuisance emails to see the value in sharing of information
and made the third top wish to make the list archive searchable. This third
place vote seems to indicate that the RPML is an excellent communication
process. However, many users are frustrated by the time it takes to locate
topical information by searching though the archives. Therefore, many
users voted for the creation of a library for different subjects like 3D
printing or tooling while others called for a web site phone directory to
help identify experts, users, suppliers. Overall the communication of
helpful information seems to be a top priority for most users.
The voting leaves RP at this point and the fourth place votes turn to
better CAD tools for organic shapes and complicated point cloud
data. Software issues such as slicing as an integrated module/function of
3D-CAD-SW or slicing of native CAD-files/formats received a few votes. The
problems that current CAD systems often presents seemed to hit a major
nerve although third party software companies have long sought to fill
these gaps. After years of struggling to create more and more complex
models, the user community is searching to find CAD systems that are easier
to use and less expensive to own. Many users call for the creation of a
new group that links the CAD/CAE, tooling industry and RP
together. Whether the idea is a new mail listing or a new organization to
promote this grouping, many users feel that it is time to reach beyond
engineering and manufacturing and move into other markets.
The idea of moving into other markets is visible in such categories as; a
"consumer" RP-machine, Rapid Manufacturing, a one-button touch rapid
manufacturing of multi-material products, a RP metals machine with good
part finish, durability, and minimal post processing, or the call for
production machines. The idea of producing prototypes is quickly being
lost in the call for direct production. Couple all these votes together and
they move direct manufacturing to fifth on the voting list.
Last in the voting was the call for effective collaboration between R&D
Institutes to achieve all the above-mentioned wishes along with votes for
more cultural/racial/gender diversity within the industry. While the
creation of our wish list can provide some insight into the needs of our
global community, we can all agree that without this collaboration many of
our dreams will not happen in our lifetime. Now we can recognize the
amount of hard work and effort it will take to achieve our dreams and each
one agree to participate in effective collaboration that includes not only
R&D Institutes but also a diversity of global vendors and users. No one
person or vendor can do it alone.
As a time-line for action, it seems that material suppliers need to focus
on developing materials that mimic engineering defined properties for the
short term while looking to develop materials for direct production
systems. The user community should vocalize their material requirements
and help set standards for these new materials by posting their in-house
data to a vendor neutral database. Getting this database set up and then
getting the user community to participate will take a Herculean effort.
Also the user community should be focused on defining an industry standard
benchmark part or groups of parts. Organizations such as NIST, NCMS, IMS,
SME, JARI, and GARPA should lend their support in getting these standards
defined and approved. Vendors should work with these organizations to
assure that their technology is bench-marked fairly and easily.
Before RP moves into the production arena, the user community should decide
which materials offer the most productivity. Systems built for these
defined materials would then offer the technology vendors a stable market
to showcase their products. By working together to develop production
systems, industry is assured that these production machines will work best
for their manufacturing needs and product lines. It is critical that
production machines offer the same type of quality, speed, and accuracy as
current manufacturing processes.
In order to achieve the goal of direct production, vendors and the user
community will have to embrace the global challenge of multi-cultural
diversity as they define a new working environment for manufacturing
customized products. But as this poll identified the need for benchmarks
and new material properties, the RP community must define new manufacturing
practices and communication tools.
Opinions, suggestions, and other controversial matter VOID where prohibited.
I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is; I
only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that
differentiate me from a doormat.- Rebecca West
Elaine T. Hunt, Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Laboratory to Advance Industrial Prototyping
Clemson University 206 Fluor Daniel Bldg.
Clemson, SC 29634-0925
864-656-0321 (voice) 864-656-4435 (fax)
For more information about the rp-ml, see http://ltk.hut.fi/rp-ml/
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