Re: [rp-ml] Back from oblivion

From: Bathsheba Grossman (
Date: Mon Aug 08 2005 - 22:55:15 EEST

On Mon, 8 Aug 2005 wrote:
> It's dichotomous that while there has been this great increase in
> sales, and an enormous widening of potential application areas as
> witnessed by IP developments, there have been less than 100 postings
> to the RPML during the last couple of months.

I'd suppose that the years of failure to moderate this list
effectively had something to do with it -- most people who have other
industry contacts, and better things to do than delete spam, probably
left during that time.

> It can't be that all the questions are answered now, but it may be
> that certain technologies have become dominant enough to provide
> easily accepted but limited solutions.

I agree with that; it seems as though the field has fragmented into
sectors dominated by particular technologies. The broad categories
look to me like form-fit-functional parts, concept models, jewelry
waxes, and metal models.

There's this odd situation where if you're already in the field, you
know the few big players in each category, things are quite stable,
and there's not that much to discuss. A slightly different resin
here, a new model with similar technology there. The wider, sexier
goal of cheap parts made to order in any size and material has receded.

But people outside the field don't have any sense of those categories,
and are always asking why they can't make a 6" gold part on a
Solidscape machine, or use Prometal to make a 1/2" keychain with
filigree. And why everything is so fantastically expensive. That
bigger goal is what they've read about in the media, and they get put
off pretty fast when they get a sniff of the real state of affairs.

Not that this state of affairs is bad -- it's getting quite possible
to do useful things, and in some cases even at reasonable prices --
but for some reason this field suffers from inflated expectations much
more than nanotech does.

> Clinging to "fabbers" and "fabbing" is not helpful, and stands in
> the way of popularization of the field. All the other terms largely
> stink, too - including RP which is what I've mostly used. Today "3D
> printing" is probably the easiest and only way to make a connection
> between what's already in the heads of the public with the greater
> awareness of this field. Any good marketer knows that if you don't
> try to work with what's already in the mind of the prospect, you
> will fail to communicate the message. It may be one major reason
> why interest in RP has diminished in the face of increased sales.
> The newbies don't know that RP is 3D printing.

I agree there's a terminology problem. I use "3D printing" too.
People have to go through a mental wrench before they understand it,
but it's better than RP, which means nothing at all to them.

(I despise "fabbing", though I can't say why other than that to me it
sounds horrid and has very wrong connotations. Like something the
Beatles would have done in 1968.)

> In ending, I have to just say that I don't feel nanotech is a
> complete boondoggle, but I suspect it is going to be similar in
> development path to biotechnology. That is, many years before a
> payoff, if any. Considering how much money and hype is being piled
> into the field, however, I believe it is a particular benefit to me
> that among the first products of the field have been stain-resistant
> trousers.

One thing about nanotech is that it's expected to be magic: it's
supposed to do impossible or unlikely things. RP competes with other
methods of making things which we're already very familiar with, and
which already work pretty well. That makes its failures very
concrete, easy to point to, and less forgivable. Nobody criticizes
nanomachines by saying "I could have done that faster by whittling".


Bathsheba Grossman                                          (831)429-8224
Sculpting geometry                            
Laser etched proteins                    

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