Re: [rp-ml] Back from oblivion

From: Brock Hinzmann (
Date: Sat Aug 06 2005 - 21:08:24 EEST


I think you will always be remembered as one of the
characters of the early days of RP. One of your comments
was the inspiration for the title of the piece I wrote on
The Personal Factory, which you kept posted on your Ennex
web site, where people still find it today, even though I
totally disagreed with your suggested appproach. It is the
debate that stimulates people. Also, while I was one
person that had a problem with the term fabricator, the
influence of your book using that name in the title surely
got a lot of people started and is probably why Fab, the
FabLab and fabrication are the terms that many people
today are talking about. Indeed, if the technology is
going to have a global influence, fabricator or fab are
more likely to be the terms they put to it than RP.

The thing that intrigues me about fabricators today is all
the people working to use the Internet to share ideas
about how to design and make new electronic devices in an
open source fashion. Adrian's project at Bath is the more
ambitious, but lots of other people are working on
projects that I see as related, like the UC San Diego
project to buy used toy robots on eBay, hack them with new
sensors and parts and send them out into the world as
semiautonomous robots to spy on the government. As the
skills to do that expand, I can imagine RP tech extending
into fabber hackers making new robot body parts. Can
someone make money doing this? Could be fun, as well as
resulting in the creation of new products, a RP new
business model, and maybe even new lifestyles.

Just because RP has become standard operating procedure
for many businesses doesn't mean there aren't some
interesting things happening out there. For professional
reasons, I spend a lot more time here in Silicon Valley on
nanotech than I do on RP these days, but as a human being,
I still think RP is more interesting.

Your POOFF site reminds me of an April Fool's newsletter I
wrote around 1990 or 91. One of the technologies I
described in it was called photo-optic object fabrication
(see, even I wrote fab then) or POOF. Let me know if you
are interested and I'll dig it out of the archives.

Welcome back.

Brock Hinzmann
Technology Navigator
SRI Consulting Business Intelligence
Menlo Park, California

On Sat, 6 Aug 2005 06:19:37 -0700
  "Marshall Burns" <> wrote:
>Hello to my friends (and others) in RP Land,
> First. let me thank Hannu Kaikonen for
>finally resolving the
>software issue that has been blocking my messages from
>being posted here
>since last December.
> It's been strange, a bit surreal, to have
>been blocked in this
>way. I've been spending the past few years trying to
>recover from the
>disappointment of not getting the Genie Studio Fabber out
>of development and
>into the marketplace. It hasn't been an easy time. I
>wondered if there was
>any ongoing role for me in the "RP" community, or if it
>was time for me to
>move on to other things. And then, one day I found out
>that my
>communications to the industry via this list were
>blocked. It didn't seem to
>be due to anyone not wanting me here, but just a software
>glitch that I was
>powerless to debug. Very frustrating, it seemed like a
>metaphor for my life
>and my career.
> So let me also thank the people who saw my
>test transmission the
>other day and wrote to say that they got it and welcoming
>me back.
> For anyone who's interested, let me give you
>a bit of an update.
>If it leads to any interesting discussions, on or off
>list, cool. For those
>of you who don't know, I was one of a number of people
>who got an award (a
>certificate and an embroidered RP-ML baseball cap) about
>five or more years
>ago as one of the most frequent posters on this list. I
>don't know if I'll
>be as talkative now, maybe, we'll see.
> I spent most of last year traveling around
>Northern California
>thinking about what to do with my life. I took advantage
>of the free time to
>finally go to the counterculture festival I'd heard about
>with some
>interest, Burning Man. While I was there, I got a phone
>message from the
>University of Southern California asking if I'd like to
>teach a class in
>digital manufactuirng. I took them up on that and moved
>back to Los Angeles
>at the beginnong of this year to do it. I guess I did a
>good enough job on
>it the first time, since they asked me to go back next
>semester and teach
>both an undergrad and a grad-school version of the
>course. So that will be
>starting up in a few weeks. (The Web site for the course
>is at
> A few months ago, Peter Diamandis, founder
>of the X Prize (
><>, asked if I'd
>work with them for a
>while to think about the possibility of an X Prize in
>nanotechnology. So
>that's been my main thing this summer. It's a really
>interesting idea. As
>some of you know, I see nanotech as the ultimate
>direction of where digital
>manufacturing is taking us. So I have two conflicting
>thoughts about this:
>* On the one hand, it's tempting to leave behind working
>fabricators and jump whole hog into nanotech. The fabber
>industry (if you
>don't mind me calling it that, which some of you do)
>feels boring today.
>Slow market growth, incremental tech advancement, and
>virtually unknown
>outside our circle.
>* On the other hand, I believe that fabricators are an
>bridge between industrial manufacturing and futuristic
>nanotechnology. I
>think there's a lot of important work to be done in
>advancing fabbers from
>what they are today to the magical thing-makers they will
>become in the
>future. And it's work that will have a much more
>immediate impact than nano.
> It's frustrating that for what seem to be
>entirely political
>reasons, nanotechnology has attracted billions of dollars
>in government and
>venture funding, while fabricators, which present a much
>more immediate and
>realistic opportunity for dramatic impact on
>manufacturing and many, many
>other industries, languishes in virtual obsurity.
> So what am I gonna do? Good question. When I
>took the part-time
>teaching position at USC, I thought I'd use it as an
>impetus to write a new
>edition of my book. (For those who don't know it,
> I've
>been taking stabs at that, but I'm not sure I have the
>motivation to carry
>it through. I've always loved big, hard projects, but I
>don't know anymore.
>It wasn't my intention to remain a lone-wolf entrepreneur
>forever and I'm
>getting tired of it. I've considered leaving technology
>entirely and getting
>involved in some kind of community activism. But whatever
>I do, I want it to
>to be in some kind of team effort. (It occurs to me that
>any of you who are
>reading this far might ask why I don't get involved in
>the really
>interesting research going on at USC in new fabber
>technologies. I was
>hoping that might happen, but it doesn't seem to have
>been part of the idea
>in bringing me here to teach this course.)
> I hope I haven't gotten too personal in my
>little update here.
>But you know, this always has been personal for me. I got
>into fabbers in
>the first place, back in 1990, because they "turned me
>on," so to speak. I
>suppose that's why the failure of the Genie project hit
>me so hard, and
>perhaps there's a lesson there. Don't be so personally
>invested in my
>projects. But I don't know if I want that lesson. What's
>the point of living
>if you're going to spend your days doing something you
>don't really, really
>care about? I also got deeply hurt the last time I fell
>in love. Does that
>mean I'm going to avoid falling in love again? No, I do
>want to fall in love
>again, and I do want to find another project that I'll be
>as excited about
>as the Genie. In both love and work, I'll look for
>lessons from my previous
>experiences to see if I can win at both this time. But I
>don't think I'm
>going to avoid getting deeply invested in either one.
> When I wrote my book on fabbers in 1993, I
>said in the preface
>that my role in the industry was seeking definition. I
>didn't expect to be
>still seeking that definition twelve years later. Maybe
>I've made my
>contribution and it's time for me to move on to something
>else. Or maybe
>there's an exciting new project around the corner.
> I hope my long rumination about life and
>technology adventures
>hasn't convinced most you that you wished Hannu had left
>me out in oblivion.
>If my being blocked was a metaphor for feeling lost and
>powerless, maybe
>getting back in is a signal of getting back on track?
>Anyway, its nice to
>talk to you again, those of you who are happy to hear
>from me. Are we ready
>yet to make magic?
>Best regards,
>Marshall Burns
> <>
> <>
> <>

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