Re: [rp-ml] A public survey on terminology

From: Steve Baker (
Date: Wed Aug 10 2005 - 03:29:09 EEST

Marshall Burns wrote:

> In reading your message, I came "this close" to chucking "fabber" and
> switching my sites over to saying "3D printer" instead. It really grabbed me
> by the throat when you said that my terminology "stands in the way of
> popularization of the field." Ouch. If that's true, what a cruel irony, and
> something I would want to correct immediately if I become convinced that
> it's true.

I think that we technologists have little control of the names people
actually use for things.

I don't think anything with 'rapid' or 'prototyper' is correct.

Some things are EXCEEDINGLY slow to build on one of these machines. Some
cheap 'rapid' prototypers may be very slow indeed - others will be much
faster. We should reserve our use of terms like 'fast', 'rapid', 'slow'
to distinguish between machines that operate at different speeds. You
don't want people talking about 'a fast rapid prototyper' and 'a slow
rapid prototyper' - that's just silly. Also, the first generation of
these machines to hit the public's attention will be exceedingly sluggish
compared to the tenth generation of them. When you have a machine that
can make you something in two minutes, it'll seem stupid to call today's
hour long runs "rapid".

So 'rapid' isn't right - it's got to go.

Also, 'prototyper' is wrong.

These machines are CURRENTLY too slow and expensive for most manufacturing
tasks - so they are mostly consigned to making prototypes for things that
more conventional manufacturing will eventually produce in quantity. But
when they are as cheap as an inkjet printer, and people are using them to
make all sorts of things, the word 'prototype' won't make sense anymore.

'fabber' - is OK I guess. I don't personally like it - but as a contraction
of the word 'fabricator', it could catch on and be relatively meaningful.
But we have other meanings for the word 'fabricator'. It's like the
original meaning of the word 'computer' - which was 'a person who calculates
things'. It's gradually changed to mean 'a machine that calculates things' -
but there was a time when the term must have been confusing. There are
people who currently call themselves 'fabricators' - so I would want to
qualify the term: "automatic fabricator" or maybe "computerized fabricator".

But just 'fabber' is OK...I guess.

'3D printer' is the term I like best. It reflects the close analogy with
2D printers. I imagine my 3D printer being connected to my computer via
the same port as my 2D printer currently is. I imagine using it for similar
jobs - one or two copies of something I downloaded from the web or made myself.
I imagine running out of expensive plastic - just like I currently run out
of horribly expensive toner.

The actual process is kinda similar too - and inkjet printer is a lot like a
plastic-squirting gizmo - except that it only works in 2D instead of 3.

I could also imagine the 3D printer replacing my 2D printer - fabricating
thin plastic sheets with the text and graphics deposited into it.

> If you want to participate in the survey, please fill in the following form:

Term for the field of technology: 3D printing

Verb for making something with it: Printing

Term for machine that does it: 3D printer.

Other comments and suggestions:

It has been suggested that it would be easy to add a 3D scanner into one
of these gizmos - then you'd have a 3D photocopier - maybe a 3D camera
would take holiday snaps which you'd then print into little diorama's.

---------------------------- Steve Baker -------------------------
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