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

Date: Fri Aug 26 2005 - 21:48:25 EEST

Hi listers!

Well it was a long time since rp-ml has been as active as during the last
few weeks. Maybe we really need someone like Marshall to come in and throw
a torch from time to time. Welcome back!

The terminology of our branch of technology is indeed an entangled mass of
concepts, abberiviations, brand names and applications, and some sort of
agreement on the structure of this terminology is very much needed. I'm
afraid my own humble opinions on this matter may produce a rather long
answer but I'll try to keep the main points in the beginning and then
those interested can decide for their own wether it is worth their while
to follow up on rest of the argument.

First of all the terminology must separate technology from application of
technology or strategy. Even though some technologies may be very
advantageous for certain applications or strategies, they are hardly used
exclusively for that particular purpose, and may most likely share the
application with other technologies. This will cause confusement and
seemingly contradictions, even more so when the technology in question
have more than one application area.

Secondly, the terms for a technology should be clear and unambiguos,
descriptive, if possible, and put focus on the smallest common denominator
and critical point of that technology. However, if an application of this
technology reaches a wide acceptance with the general public, we could
expect that the popular term for that application, and possibly the whole
branch of technology will be based on the name of the product that made
the technology public commongoods. (For reference consider terms such as
"PC", "Walkman" and others.)

It is also nice if a technological term is easy to translate into other
languages than english.

So my choice of term for the technology is "Additive Manufacturing".
-Descriptive, focusing on the unique, critical point and common
denominator of a number of otherwise quite different processes.
The process of producing an object by this technology: "Building".
-Implies an additive process and a term alredy in use in many additive
manufacturing machines.
And finally for the general term for machines that produces objects by
additive manufacturing it is natural to use "Additive manufacturibng
Machine". However, when the abstraction level comes down to the actual
machines, the difference between the various processes makes using the
terminology for the particular process or individual machine more
reasonable than the general term.
"The SLA and SLS are both additive manufacturing machines, but while the
SLA bilds parts by addition from liquid polymer, SLS builds by addition
from powder materials."
"-This is a real complex part, it should to be made by Additive
"-I suggest we use the LENS to build it."
(Here it might be appropropriate to make a point that abberiviations
shoould bwe avoided unless ther is absolutely no risk for
missunderstandings. Example:
"-This is a real complex part it should be made by A.M."
"-That soon? It's impossible!")

Some times during this discussion it has seemed as people have been
discussing different things. While some have been arguing for a common
terminology for Additive Manufacturing technology, other have been
suggesting names for the anitcipated easy to use household manufacturing
machine, that could, but not necesarily will, be based on Additive
Manufacturing technology. I have no real problem with terms such as
"Replicator", "Materializer", "3DPrinter" (as long as it is based on a
rpinter like technology), "Fab", or "Fabber" for a household manufacturing
device or process, but really, that is not for us to decide. That honor
will most likely go to who ever popularizes the application with the
genaral public. But as a general term for the technology they don't make
much sense.

Terms from Star Trek and other parts of popular culture better be very
descriptive to catch on internationally, otherwise they will be quite
pointless in the parts of the world where these series never heve been a
hit. English is indeed the common international language of technical
communication, but all icons of anglo-saxon popular culture are not
international points of reference, especially not if they are a few
decades old. (There are offensive jokes about people who has failed to
understand this.)

The terms "Digital Fabricator", "Fabber" or "Fab" are all fine for a fully
automatic and/or digital machine that fabricates objects, but there is
nothing apart from the digital/fully automatic part that connect these
terms to the additive manufacturing processes.

I recently visited the opening of MIT-FabLab at Lyngen, arctic Norway.
This is a part of a visionary project to bring technological litteracy and
empowerment to people and areas that are somewhat outside the present
technology clusters. The MIT-FabLabs are openend on a wide scale
internationally and are supplied with user friendly equipment to build
more or less anything. ("Fab"- stands for "fabrication" or "fabulous"
whichever you chose, quote) But this equipment does not include any kind
of Additive Manufacturing machines. (-Unless you chose to count the
stacking of cut-outs from a laser- or plasma-cutter.)
In respect to small scale manufacturing and innovation I believe that the
terms "fab", "fabber" etc. have a fair chance of making it into the
general vocabulary, and the MIT project may help, but not for the use as a
exclusive term for Additive Manufacturing.

This brings up the term "Layered Manufacturing", which I find one of the
least bad terms for the technology. But it is not exclusively descriptive,
stacking of cut outs, and even the lamination of fiber materials would be
more appropriate to term "Layered Manufacturing" than for example SLA.
Neither is the separation into layers the critical point in a number of
additive manufacturing technologies. -One could easily imagine a future
development of some LENS-like process where the parts are built
simultaneously in three dimensions. that would by-pass the layer structure
while the additive approach and principal attributes of the process would

The term 3DPrinting makes perfectly sense for a printing-like process such
as Z-corp, ProMetal or ThermoJet, but gets a bit missleading when you talk
about SLA- or SLS-like processes and it gets really strange when you talk
about any LENS-like process as "3DPrinting".

Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF), "Free Form Fabrication" (FFF) and others
are all fine, but perhaps a bit of tongue twisters when read out in full,
and not really focussing on the crucial point of the technology. -And then
there is this thing about abberiviations needing to be absolutely clear or
at least not ambiguous or missleading.

Finally we have the terms Rapid Prototyping, Rapid Tooling, and all the
rest of that bunch. The usage of terms that in reality places the focus on
the application areas instead of the technology is something I've had real
problems with. This usage may have been more appropriate in the early days
when there really was only one applcation area for the Additive
Manufacturing technologies but even then there were still other
technologies that in many cases were a lot more rapid or accurate. Today
this discrepancy is even more obvious. In addition to this there are other
industrial sectors that use the same term for very different technologies
but with the same purpose.

At one time some people turned to my old university and asked if there
were any one who could come and speak about rapid prototyping at a seminar
they were having. So the university sent me, all set up with slides,
models and case studies. -But the seminar was on electronics design and
the people attending weren't the slightest interested in physical
models.(Even though some thought the model of a skull was cool...)

Among our own community we are pretty clear about what we mean by RP, RT,
RM, etc. but in contact with other people without our inside- and
background knowledge, or only partial insight in the technology and
terminology this can cause a confusement that may be contra-productive for
us. If making people accepting new and radical ideas is difficult, it is a
lot harder to make them give up their old preconceptions and prejudice.
The identification of Additive Manufacturing technologies as being mostly
about "Rapid Prototyping" is one such prejudice. As long as this
technology i principally associated with prototyping, projects regarding
other applications of this technology will have a much harder time finding
the necesary funding. Of course i realize that "RP" and the others are
well established terms, but eventually the usage of this outdated
terminology will have to be phased out, and we might as well start now.

in deep respect for those with the endurance to read this far. -Luckily I
don't post that often....

> [Hi All, sorry if this thread is old, but I had some trouble posting -
here's hoping this one goes through...]
>> Am 09.08.2005 um 18:25 schrieb Marshall Burns:
>>> Rapid prototyping, rapid prototype, rapid prototyper
>> While in common use, this term is used to describe prototyping of
software as well.
>>> RP, RP, RP device or RPer
>> Shortcuts to the above, it's the same.
>>> Desktop manufacturing, desktop manufacture,
>>> desktop manufacturer or DTMer
>> This talks about the size of the manufactured parts and neither honors
small milling machines (not what "we" usually think of) nor big size
machines doing layered manufacturing.
>>> Solid freeform fabrication, SFF, SFFer
> [Does the world really need more acronyms? It's getting so that each one
means something different in different circles. SFF = Science Fiction Fan
> DTM = Divorced Transvestite Male. RP = Retired Person. I'd prefer a
> word that resisted acronymization. But I've never warmed up to "Fabber".
> one thing, fabrication isn't really descriptive of what these machines
> In the sculpture world (my home planet) fabricators make largish pieces
> standard preformed materials, like steel sheet, rod, and tube; cutting,
bending, and welding as required. Foundries are closer to the idea, since
> they work with more amorphous materials, but I don't see these machines
being called desktop foundries. Rapid Prototyping is an accepted term, but
> inaccurate, since these machines are not restricted to building
> prototypes,
> and the process can be anything but rapid. What about Materializers?
> captures some of the magic, without limiting the idea to a single
> or
> purpose. If they came with a 3d scanner built in, then we could call
> Replicators...]
>> A somewhat broad term, but already close.
>>> 3-D printing, 3-D print, 3-D printer
>> This would fit for a simple description to be used in the public.
>>> Digital fabrication or fabbing, fab, fabber
>> The future of about any type of manufacturing and/or assembling will
>> digital. Doesn't point to SLA/SLS/FDM type manufacturing at all.
>>> If you want to participate in the survey, please fill in the
>>> form:
>> Once using the best of your suggestions ...
>>> Term for the field of technology: 3D printing
>>> Verb for making something with it: 3D printing
>>> Term for machine that does it: 3D printer
>> ... and another one using terms I'd prefer myself:
>>> Term for the field of technology: Layered manufacturing
>>> Verb for making something with it: Layered manufacturing
>>> Term for machine that does it: Layered manufacturing machine
>> These terms describe a common and essential feature of all those
>> best, IMO.
>> N.B.: This doesn't mean e.g. desktop milling machines are useless or
incapable of giving quick results. But they aren't of the new type of
machines invented in the late '80s.
>> Markus
>> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
>> Dipl. Ing. Markus Hitter
> [I don't know why we have to limit the term to cover only machines
> since the '80s. That seems entirely arbitrary to me. The Roland company
> pushing a term of their own: Subtractive Rapid Prototyping (SRP) to
> their digitally controlled milling machines. There are other sorts of
processes that could also fall under that umbrella, such as
> computer-controlled excimer lasers, but it does expand the field of
consideration past the additive systems one generally thinks of as RP
machines, and they do essentially the same thing - taking a model from
"virtual reality" to physical actuality. There's another category of
> that's overlooked here as well: 2d cut-out devices like abrasive
> and CNC plasma torches. Like the cutters used in Laminated Object
Manufacture, they can be used to produce 3d objects by a simple process of
> stacking, and they are still the only practical way to digitally produce
objects larger than can be handled by CNC routers and mills (which
themselves are capable of making much bigger parts than the
> incremental-build systems we think of as RP machines.)]
> Andrew Werby
> [PS: Thanks, Hannu, for taking the trouble to get me back on board...]
----- Original Message -----
> From: "SiderWhite" <>
> To: "Rp-Ml (E-mail)" <>
> Sent: Friday, August 12, 2005 5:03 PM
> Subject: [rp-ml] A public survey on terminology
>> Interesting threads, here's my two cents worth:
>> Term for the field of technology: Rapid Manufacturing (although not
>> rapid - yet!) or Mass Customization.
>> Verb for making something with it: Manufacturing, Customizing, or
>> (for the more artistic types).
>> Term for machine that does it:
>> Mass Customizer or Creation Engine.
>> It will be interesting to see the survey results.
>> Glenn
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Marshall Burns" <>
>>> To: <>; <>
>>> Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 10:25 AM
>>> Subject: [rp-ml] A public survey on terminology
>>> Ed, you really got me going with this e-mail, in two different ways.
>>> going to break my response into two messages, this one and another one
>>> the open source stuff you mentioned.
>>> In reading your message, I came "this close" to chucking "fabber" and
switching my sites over to saying "3D printer" instead. It really
>> 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
>> and
>>> something I would want to correct immediately if I become convinced
>>> it's true.
>>> So let me ask other people on here to chime in on this issue. What
terminology do you think is best in the long run for the technology that
>>> makes physical objects automatically from a digital description and
>>> materials. I suggest that we look at answers in the form of a list of
>> three
>>> terms, one for the field of technology, one for the verb meaning to
>>> something with the technology, and one for the machine that does it.
>>> I
>>> suppose some of the choices are:
>>> Rapid prototyping, rapid prototype, rapid prototyper
>>> RP, RP, RP device or RPer
>>> Desktop manufacturing, desktop manufacture,
>>> desktop manufacturer or DTMer
>>> Solid freeform fabrication, SFF, SFFer
>>> 3-D printing, 3-D print, 3-D printer
>>> Digital fabrication or fabbing, fab, fabber
>>> These are just some of the most popular terms that have cropped up
>>> time. I would invite people to suggest new terminology that hasn't
>> appeared
>>> before. God knows, we could use some fresh ideas!
>>> If you want to participate in the survey, please fill in the following
>> form:
>>> Term for the field of technology: ____________________________ Verb
for making something with it: _____________________________ Term for
machine that does it: _____________________________
>>> Other comments and suggestions:
>>> If people will send this in either on-list or privately (please keep
>>> subject line unaltered to help me compile the responses), I will
>> the
>>> results and report back to the list.
>>> I'm not promising to change my use of terminology based on the
>> but
>>> I do hope to learn something, and I am open to changing my ways if
>> are
>>> indeed not helpful.
>>> Best regards,
>>> Marshall Burns
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: [] On
>>> Of
>>> Sent: Monday, August 08, 2005 10:18
>>> To:;
>>> Subject: Re: [rp-ml] Back from oblivion
>>> Hi Marshall:
>>> Nice to see you back in the bully pulpit. I just have a few comments.
Rapid prototyping hasn't really stalled. In fact, according to
>> most
>>> recent update it's going gangbusters in terms of units sold and
>> But
>>> it has changed, and certainly the amount of discussion and interest
>>> decreased markedly. It's dichotomous that while there has been this
>>> increase in sales, and an enormous widening of potential application
>>> as witnessed by IP developments, there have been less than 100
>>> to
>>> the RPML during the last couple of months.
>>> It can't be that all the questions are answered now, but it may be
>>> certain technologies have become dominant enough to provide easily
>> accepted
>>> but limited solutions.
>>> It does matter what a field is called. If the public can't hang a
>>> name on it, it won't be understood. And it won't ever be popularized.
Nanotech? That term encompasses a huge range of disparate items, many or
>>> most completely unrelated - but it's a buzzword that gets the juices
>> flowing
>>> in a large segment of the population. It sounds excitingly
>> even
>>> though it's inexact and very general.
>>> Clinging to "fabbers" and "fabbing" is not helpful, and stands in the
>> 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
>> in
>>> the mind of the prospect, you will fail to communicate the message.
>> 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. Being
technically correct may give you a warm glow, but it won't heat your
>>> home.
>>> As we discussed on the phone a while back, one of the things that you
>> excel
>>> at is proselytizing. Well, that's a job that needs to be done here -
>> it
>>> may harbor rewards. I remember as a youth reading about Billy Graham
retiring to his mountain top retreat in Virginia to contemplate his next
>>> crusade, or whatever. He rechargeth his batteries, in any case, in
>> splendid
>>> surroundings. What made this particularly memorable for me as a kid
>> that
>>> he had just come to our very neighborhood to drive the sinners out of
>>> very own honky-tonks. Incidentally, the bars were very proud of this,
>>> there were pictures in the windows from the newspapers of him doing
>> It
>>> got them more business by proving that sin could actually be had on
>>> premises.
>>> Now, I was awestruck because somehow I thought when he went home, it
>>> be to a neighborhood like ours, knee-deep in cigar butts, but it
>>> The point I'm trying to make is that you've already started on this
>>> with some success, and it might not be a bad idea to keep at it.
>>> have apparently handsomely succeeded at similar endeavors.
>>> ... [snip: remaining portion appears in my next response]
>>> Ed Grenda
>>> Castle Island Co.
>>> 781-646-6280 (voice or fax)
>>> (email)
>>> The Worldwide Guide to Rapid Prototyping

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