The following are the text and slides of the presentation by Marshall Burns to the Plastics Product Design & Development Forum in Chicago on May 31, 1998.
Fabbing the Future
Developments in Rapid Manufacturing
Plastics Product Design & Development Forum
May 30, 1998
by Marshall Burns, Ph.D.
Thank you, Jordan. Id like to thank Glenn Beale and Jordan Rotheiser for inviting me here today. Glenn has been a good friend for many years and I know that Jordan has been working very hard for the last several months to pull this conference together. Looks like were off to a great start.
What a pleasure it is to be back in Chicago, long a hot bed of manufacturing and industry for the world, birthplace of the steel skyscraper, nuclear power, fast food, mail order merchandizing, and car racing. Chicago was also the first home of Walt Disney, modern jazz, Wrigleys chewing gum, and the Playboy Bunny.
I speak a lot about fabricators all over the world. So far, Ive done this on four continents, in England, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Portugal, and all over the United States. When Ive given a talk a few times, I usually can recite it entirely from memory. But for you folks today, I have prepared a brand new presentation, with some all-new material. So please pardon me if I refer to my notes from time to time. I wouldnt want to be guilty of leaving out any of the important information Ive prepared for you.
I am here to work for you today. This is a conference of men and women who design products in plastics for a living. So in preparing this talk I asked myself what is important to a plastics product designer. And that will tell me what is important for me to talk about today. So here is my list. If Ive got this right, we should be on the right track today.
First, a good designer may have a lot of ideas but the talent of design is often not so much in coming up with ideas as in selecting the right ones to invest further time in developing. So you probably want better ways to know whether your ideas are going to work.
Next, something I hear a lot about when I visit both large and small companies around the world is the frustration of design engineers getting their managers and the marketing department to understand what theyve drawn. Even other engineers may not really get your idea until its finally represented in working hardware. So it seems to me that you want better ways to explain your designs to your boss, your colleagues, and your marketing department.
Third, you want to win the lottery. No, seriously, every responsible member of an organization wants that organization to be successful and to prosper. And you also want to have a part in that success. For that to be true, you have to design products that satisfy your companys customers and that can be manufactured at a profit. You want your designs to sell and to make money for your company.
Is this a good representative list of what you want in your professional life? Really, if Ive left off something important from this list, please tell me about it, either right now or send me an e-mail after the conference.
My promise to you today is that what I am here to talk about, fabricators, can help you achieve all three of those important objectives.
Now, while it is true that I wrote the book on fabricators, and the book is an unbiased look at the entire industry, I must warn you that I can no longer claim neutrality. On the first of this year, Ennex Fabrication Technologies incorporated to become Ennex Corporation. We are developing a new fabricator technology called Offset Fabrication and plan to introduce a new fabricator, the Genie® Studio Fabber, which will be a very fast, easy to use, and economical fabricator. With my background as a scientist, I still know how to do an objective analysis and thats what Im going to give you today. My job here is to show you how you can use fabricators for rapid prototyping, rapid tooling, and direct manufacturing, no matter whose you decide to use.
What are these fabricators Im speaking of? A fabricator (youll also hear me refer to them a lot as fabbers, which is just a shorter nickname for the same thing) is a machine that makes things from computer data and raw materials.
Fabricators are used all over the world for rapid prototyping, rapid tooling, and sometimes for direct manufacturing. Were going to come back to all of this shortly in much greater detail; Im just laying some ground work here.
I should warn you that I have something of a reputation in my industry for doing things, as Frank Sinatra used to put it, My Way. In particular, I tend to make up new terminology when that helps to explain things better than the more accepted language.
For example, most people in my industry speak of fabbers as rapid prototyping machines. This is a big mistake, because a fabber is much more versatile, and naming it just for prototyping is much too limiting. Another example: there are businesses that own fabbers and offer their services on a contract basis. A lot of people call these places service bureaus. But thats not helpful at all. The name service bureau can just as well refer to a business that does photo printing, or digitizing, or any of thousands of services you might happen to need in your work. I call businesses that offer the services of fabbers fab shops so you know exactly what service it is were talking about. A third example is that a lot of people call what comes out of a fabber a part whether its intended to be a part of something or not. This term goes back to the days when fabbers were mainly used by big automotive manufacturers and they used them to make models of distributor caps and exhaust manifolds. Those were parts. But what about when a fabber is used to make a biological model of a virus or a relief map of the surface of Mars or a human 3-D portrait? These arent parts of anything, so the general term I use for what comes out of a fabber is an object.
You might think Im being fussy here about words. But the reason I do things My Way is that thats the only way for me to do my job, which is developing new fabber technologies and helping people be more effective at using fabricators. The fabricator industry is something totally new on Planet Earth and were simply not going to get where we need to go by following any kind of established procedures.
Ive told you a little bit about me and what Im here to talk about. Let me now find out a little bit about you. Some of you may be here to learn about rapid manufacturing and fabbers for the first time and youve never used one yet. But Id like to know how many people in the room are actually experienced in using fabricators already? Now you folks, dont worry, Ive got plenty of information coming for you about the latest fabbers that you might not know about yet, as well as a lot of suggestions on how to improve your current use of fabbers, so this talk is going to be useful for the people who are new to fabbers as well as you experienced folks.
Quickly now, those of you who have used fabbers before, how many use it for making industrial models and prototypes? How many for making tooling or any sort: injection molds, blow molds, silicone rubber master patterns, investment casting patterns, any of that stuff? And how many have used it actually for low-volume production, where what comes out of the fabber goes straight into use? That is still quite a rare application, but well talk a little bit about it in a little while.
For the benefit of the people who are new to this subject, Id like to ask you folks that have used fabbers before, for any application, give me a show of hands if you found it very beneficial, whether because it saved you time or money or for another reason. Who found it just marginally helpful? Now you guys who have tried it and not really found it that great, hopefully youll take away some ideas here on how to use it more productively from now on. And is there anyone here who just really found it to be no big deal or maybe even a waste or time or money? You know, that can happen, because we are dealing here with something radically new and it can take time to get up to speed and really know how to exploit this technology. Believe me, there are tremendous advantages here for all of you in using fabricators, and my plan for the next half-hour or so is to make sure you at least know something about how to get them.
My message to you has three parts. This is not an agenda for this presentation because hopefully you will find aspects of all three messages mixed in among the whole presentation. First, I want to show you how exciting fabbers are. What a fabricator does has been the dream of mankind for thousands of years. A fabber is like a genie without the bottle; its a magical machine that answers your every material wish, if you can only describe your wish in a computerized CAD design. Product designers who use fabbers, and that should be you, are the first wave of a whole new generation of human beings in a world that is radically different from everything that has come before. You and me together, ladies and gentlemen, we are here to start a whole new life for Planet Earth. We are Fabbing the Future!
Second, Im going to give you some names and a little data on some exciting new machines even you veteran fabber users may not know about. You owe it to yourself and to your company to go check out these new machines.
Finally, were not here just for fun today. Even though it is Sunday (Glenn, did you really get all these people to come out and see me talk on a Sunday morning?), we are here to learn how to accomplish more than ever before, with less money, in less time, and with better bottom-line results. Im going to tell you how to do that.
Okay, lets get started. By now you know that Im talking about fabbers and that I think of fabbers as the most advanced and most useful tools ever devised by man. Fabbers do the work of making 3-dimensional shapes in solid materials. They supply both the power and the control for this job, taking instructions for that control from a computer file.
Fabricators have entered their third stage of evolution so far, and I dare say, they are just getting started. Ill tell you about these three stages, then Ill give you some information on machines in each of the stages, with a little extra emphasis on the third stage because those machines are the newest, the least well-known, and the most exciting. Ill also talk a little bit about what we can expect to see next.
The three stages of fabber development weve seen so far are
- Subtractive fabbers,
- Additive fabbers, and
- Studio fabbers.
Subtractive fabbers. To understand these three stages, you have to know about two basic types of fabbers: subtractive and additive. A subtractive fabber works, quite simply, by removing material selectively from a solid block. This is the same as carving or whittling except that it is done automatically by the machine instead of by a person with a knife. A subtractive fabber is usually an automated mill or lathe, and is most often called a CNC machine, which means a computer-numerically controlled machine.
Here is a typical subtractive fabber, a vertical machining center from Fadal, worth about $50,000. The ProLite from Light Machines is a great workshop tool, a table-top units selling for arounf $10,000. Subtractive fabbers also include huge devices like this bowling-alley-sized behemoth from Giddings & Lewis, which sells in the range of two to eight million dollars, depending on configuration.
Subtractive fabbers have been around since right after World War II. Its interesting that the first useful subtractive fabbers showed up at around the same time as the first useful computers. It turned out that fabbers really needed computers to do their work properly, so the development of fabbers has lagged behind computers. As computers have become faster and more powerful and easier to use, developers have been able to use those improvements to also make fabbers faster and more powerful and easier to use.
Subtractive fabbers are today a $10 billion industry. That is the value of machines that are sold around the world every year.
Additive fabbers. Around the end of the 1980s, a new type of fabber showed up on the market. This was the additive fabber. Instead of working with a solid block and carving away the unwanted material, an additive fabber starts only with a raw material that does not yet have any shape, such as a liquid or a powder or a film. It then uses any of a variety of almost magical processes to transform that raw material into a solid shape. There are six different ways that additive fabbers work today: selective curing, selective sintering, drop-on-drop deposition, drop-on-powder deposition, continuous deposition, and pattern lamination. Some of you are probably familiar with some of these techniques and some of the machines.
For example, the SLA fabber from 3D Systems was the first commercial additive fabber in the world, and is still the leading additive fabber on the market.
The next most popular fabber is the FDM from a company called Stratasys.
Another popular fabber has been the LOM from Helisys, although this company has been having some financial difficulties of late.
Altogether, there are now 20 companies around the world making and selling additive fabbers. Total sales of additive fabbers in 1997 was 993 units worth $195 million. This chart shows the growth of the additive fabber industry for the last five years plus two years of forecasted growth. The average growth rate of the industry has been 41% annually since 1993.
I have gone over the description of additive fabbers quickly because I dont want to turn this into a technical tutorial. If you would like to see a description of each of the six different types of fabbers, write down this Web address. You will also find there a list of all of the 20 manufacturers of additive fabbers and the names of their machines. If you want still more detailed information on the machines and materials, you might want to get a copy of my book, which can also be ordered on the same Web site.
Studio fabbers. In the last few years, a new class of fabbers has begun to appear, which at Ennex Corporation we call studio fabbers. Studio fabbers are the result of the segmentation of the market for fabbers into big machines and little machines. At Ennex Corporation, we call the big machines industrial fabbers and the little machines studio fabbers. Actually, to be considered a studio fabber, a machine has to be more than just small, it also has to be safe and convenient for use in an office or studio and it should be fairly inexpensive. In our classification of studio fabbers at Ennex Corporation, we have found a convenient demarcation line for separating industrial from studio fabbers to be about $100,000. But only additive devices are currently office-friendly enough to be considered in this category.
The market for studio fabbers is growing dynamically. The growth in unit sales from 1994 through 1997 averaged over 100% per year. Let me introduce you to the four studio fabbers available in the United States. Im going to give you a little more detail on these machines because they are newer and even many veteran users of additive fabbers are not yet familiar with them.
The first studio fabber on the market, launched in 1993, and the one with the most units sold, is from Sanders Prototype in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and is called the ModelMaker. This is a drop-on-drop machine, which means that it uses an in-jet nozzle to squirt little droplets of plastic material in layers on top of one another in order to build up the desired object. The ModelMaker is the most precise additive fabber on the market today, sometimes capable of rendering details as fine as a thousandth of an inch or even smaller. The cost of that precision is the speed of the machine; it is also the slowest fabber around.
Another drop-on-drop device is the Actua from 3D Systems in Valencia, California, the same people who brought out the SLA fabber back in the late 80s. The Actua is the largest of the studio class of fabbers, being the size of a large, freestanding office copier. It also works in fairly fine detail but there have been complaints about the material it works in not being very strong. 3D Systems recently launched a new material for the Actua and it will be interesting to see how it behaves.
The lowest priced additive fabber of all is the Genisys from Stratasys of Minneapolis, Minnesota, whose price has been brought down to $45,000. This is a continuous deposition, or extrusion, device, which means that it works in the same way as a bakers pen used for decorating a wedding cake. It squeezes molten plastic through a nozzle which is robotically guided to form the desired shape. This machine is quite slow and doesnt offer as fine detail as either the Sanders or the Actua, but it is the most office-friendly additive fabber on the market since its materials are clean and easy to load and it doesnt make a mess of your office when you take the models out of the machine.
Finally, the latest fabber to hit the market is also the fastest. It is called the Z and its from a company by the same name, Z Corp., in Somerville, Massachusetts. This machine has been turning heads with its speedy build times and fairly low cost of $59,000. The Z uses the drop-on-powder technology developed at MIT, in which an ink-jet nozzle deposits a liquid glue on a bed of powder in order to fuse the material into the desired shape. The powder is a little bit of a problem, which makes this machine not quite suitable for an office environment.
In fact, none of these machines is really an ideal studio fabber. Each of them has some kind of drawback in terms of speed, safety, cleanliness, ease of use, or other factors which make them not quite suitable for installation in an office environment.
Let me describe for you Ennex Corporations vision for a studio fabber.
- A studio fabber should be fast enough to deliver a finished model into your hands in less than an hour from the time you finish your CAD design.
- It should be office friendly, by which we mean that it is safe, clean, easy to use, and quiet. It should not require any special technical training to operate.
- Finally, a studio fabber should be affordable for use in an office or studio of between five and twenty engineers or designers. Affordability does not only mean a modest machine price, but also the cost of materials and other consumables, as well as the cost of maintenance and other special services must be reasonable.
The four fabbers that Ive shown you all together take us a huge step in the direction of these goals, but they dont get us all the way there. Ennex Corporation is developing a new fabber, to be called the Genie Studio Fabber, which we believe will meet all of these objectives successfully and completely. But I cant sell you one yet. Ennex Corporation is currently in the process of raising the funding that will be necessary to finish development and begin manufacturing and marketing of this product.
Since I know there will be questions about the Genie Studio Fabber, let me just explain that it uses a new technology unlike any currently on the market, called Offset Fabrication. Offset Fabrication uses an adhesive film as its raw material and cuts patterns in the film with a computer controlled knife. The patterns are then bonded sequentially to build up the desired object. In this way it is similar to the LOM technology by Helisys, except that the patterns are cut before the material is bonded instead of the other way around. This brings dramatic advantages, but let me not get into that now. The big advantage of Offset Fabrication is its speed, but I wont quote any specs on that in public yet. Also I know there will be questions about how much the Genie Studio Fabber will cost. All I can say today is that both the machine and the feed materials for it will be very competitively priced.
Relationship of categories. Lets take a minute to ensure that we understand the relationships among the three categories of fabbers. We have subtractive and additive machines, where the difference is based on how they create the shape, material removal or building up. Then another distinction is in the environment in which the fabber is typically operated. Subtractive fabbers, even the small units selling for just $10,000 have always gone in a fairly industrial setting, such as a machine shop or workshop. Fabbers in the original class of additive devices are also suitable only for installation in a laboratory or technical workshop. The new class of studio fabbers is an offshoot of the additive class. Studio fabbers work by additive processes, but they are radically different in being smaller, less expensive and generally intended for use in an office environment.
Deciding Which to Use. When getting started in using fabbers, and even when veteran users are considering how to handle a new project, one of the hardest problems is deciding which technology to use. There is really no substitute for experience here, which means that the solution is just to get started in using different processes and learning what works and does not work for your types of projects. But here are some pointers to keep in mind.
Subtractive fabricators are a very fast and simple way to produce simple shapes in all kinds of materials. They can often achieve tolerances of less than a thousandth of an inch. Machines are available, as we saw earlier, that range from table-top to the size of a bowling-alley. Note that even the table-top units are not office machines; they are technical tools that require proper care and operation to yield good results.
The primary advantage of additive fabbers is their ability to handle complex geometries. Its important to notice that this ability is not limited to external shapes but also applies to internal cavities, even down to the microscopic level. Additive fabbers give you a new freedom to experiment with shapes and structures you previously could never consider engineering. Accuracies and surface finish are generally not as good as from a subtractive fabber, and the range of materials that can be used is still fairly limited. Most additive fabbers, like their subtractive cousins, are technical tools requiring properly trained operators. Nothing larger than a few feet on a side can be modeled directly in an additive fabber, although many people will make larger objects by assembling sections made in separate runs.
Fabbers in the new studio class are lower-cost devices, which allows smaller companies and departments within larger companies to acquire their own capacity and become independent of the a centralized prototyping facility or outside fab shops. This local control of the process can often be quite beneficial. In the case of highly sensitive design data, it can be crucial. Generally, studio fabbers are limited to building objects in the range of six to ten inches on a side. Materials available for studio fabbers is quite limited, and in many cases rather inferior. Except for the Sanders ModelMaker, studio fabbers are still new technologies that have a few bugs needing to be worked out.
Benefits of Using Fabbers
Why do people use fabbers? Its simple, really. There are two primary answers: time and money. There are other reasons too that well talk about in a minute, such as improved product quality, better customer responsiveness, and hey! theyre fun. But by-and-large people use fabbers to save time and money.
Let me give you three examples.
Here is a stereolithography model of a new Hot Wheels toy car by Mattel. In its previous procedures, Mattel would hand-carve a model like this. Aside from the fact that the most skilled craftsman has a hell of a time getting the left and right sides of the model to be exactly symmetrical, it usually took about a month to get the model made. This SLA model was fabricated in just 24 hours on the 3D Systems SLA. Thats a 95% reduction in the time to make the model, yet the SLA model is more accurate and cost much less.
Here is a prototype air inlet housing for a jet engine made by Sundstrand Aerospace. The housing is manufactured by investment casting so it was desired to make the prototype by the same method. Investment casting usually required injection mold tooling to be made to mold the wax investment masters. As everyone in this room knows, injection mold tooling can be expensive. In this case, the cost of tooling was expected to be $95,000 including reworking. Instead of making the tooling, Sundstrand fabricated polycarbonate patterns directly in a DTM Sinterstation at a cost of $5,500 each, a savings of 94% of the cost for first article. In addition, the time for the project was reduced from the usual 20 weeks to six, a 70% savings in time.
Finally, this is a prototype gearbox housing for a new design of the Volkswagen Golf and Passat. The traditional method of making this prototype would have involved hand modeling and CNC machining on a subtractive fabber. Instead, Volkswagen did this project in several section on the Helisys LOM and assembled the sections to make the final model. The time to make the model, instead of the usual eight weeks by the old method, was reduced to two weeks, a 75% reduction, yet again with better accuracy than before.
Those are pretty dramatic savings. Case studies like those are not at all rare in this industry. And they make it fairly common for fabricators to pay for themselves in less than a year. In fact, we have several stories where a fabricator has paid for itself in one single project. These savings in time and money are what have been propelling the growth of the fabber market but actually some of the most important benefits cannot even be measured.
The ability to run more prototypes leads to better products, without any question. Using fabbers allows you to respond more quickly to market demand because you can develop new product concepts more quickly and the reduced costs allow you to attack niche markets that before you couldnt touch economically. As an engineer, you have probably had the experience of getting a model back from the model shop four or six weeks later, and you have to scramble to remember the project that the model was for because in the meantime youve gone on to a hundred other projects. Is that a familiar scenario? When you can get the model back in the next few days, or maybe even overnight or the same day, your project and your mind remain fresh and focused. The ability to run models quickly and inexpensively allows you to try a much wider variety of design concepts. I dont remember if it was Henry Ford or Thomas Edison who said, If you want to improve your success rate, the best way I know is to increase your failure rate. What that means is if you can feel free to try out new ideas without worrying that if they dont work you wont be bankrupting your company, then you can explore more widely. You can be more creative and probably land some new, workable, product concepts that you just couldnt have developed just working with pencil and paper.
Do you see why these benefits can be more important than the measurable savings of time and dollars? There are now a few stories of entire companies that have been founded on the basis of new products developed on fabbers. So fabbers can not only allow you to exploit existing opportunities more quickly and cheaply, but they can also create entirely new opportunities that simply were not there before. Thats exciting!
Tips for Productive Use
Let me offer some suggestions for making the most productive use of fabricators.
If you are considering buying a fabber and you currently have no experience in using one, start by using the service of any of the hundreds of fab shops across the USA. A fab shop is a company that owns fabbers for the purpose of making them available to you on a contract basis. In the subtractive arena, this is nothing but a machine shop. Shops with additive fabbers are often called service bureaus. In any case, a fab shop is an opportunity for you to gain experience at using fabbers without the investment of owning one. You can learn about how well you can benefit from using fabbers and you can try our different fabbers, either at a shop that has multiple installations or at different shops. I am constantly amazed by the number of companies I visit that bought the wrong fabber for their needs because they didnt understand enough about fabbers before they made the purchase. So, use the fab shops.
There a lot of places you can go to get the names of fab shops near you. One of the best is the Rapid Prototyping Directory by CAD/CAM Publishing in San Diego. It sells for $69, or you get it free when you get a $300 subscription to their Rapid Prototyping Report.
Dont overlook the importance of training. There are three important kinds of training for fabbers. One is a basic introduction to the technologies. Hearing this talk could be your first step for that. A next step might be taking a short course at a local college or from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Trade shows where you see fabricators on display and conferences where you hear case studies about their use are also good sources of information. The second kind of training is in 3-D CAD. 3-D CAD is the price of admission to the world of fabricators. You have to be using 3-D CAD in order to send your designs to a fabber. So you should invest some time and money in getting proficient at using it. Finally, most fabbers today are still fairly technical tools that require proper training to be operated. Make sure you get the training, including retraining when your machine is upgraded.
Whether you own fabbers or youre using fab shops, make sure you are using them for all theyre worth. The three basic applications are rapid prototyping, rapid tooling, and direct manufacturing. We havent spent a lot of time going over the details of these applications because weve only had a brief time together this morning. Rapid prototyping, or RP, means using fabbers to make industrial models and prototypes. Rapid tooling, or RT, means using fabbers to make molds or other replication tooling which is then used to make multiple copies of a geometry. Direct manufacturing, DM, means using a fabber to actually produce a final article which itself is part of a product assembly, or may itself be the product. Youll find a lot of examples of each of these applications in my book. Make sure you consider all the ways you can exploit fabbers in your product development process.
Youve all heard of concurrent engineering. Im going to introduce you to a new concept which was just created by my business partner when we were discussing the new content for this talk. Concurrent engineering means breaking down the wall between engineering and manufacturing, so that the engineers and the production people are communicating and the product and the process for manufacturing it are developed in parallel. There is another wall in most manufacturing companies that hasnt received as much attention as the wall between engineering and production. The other wall is the one between engineering and marketing. Fabbers can help to break that wall down. When you can make a model of your designs quickly and inexpensively, you can discuss those designs with the sales staff, maybe even get a salesman to take some of our models with him on a sales call for real customer feedback. The salesman or other people in the marketing department may have interesting suggestions for your design, or may point out problems that you might not have thought about on your own. This kind of communication between engineering and marketing is invaluable.
Finally, this kind-of repeats the last point on the last slide, but its worth repeating. There is nothing like repeated failure to breed success. Of course you have to learn form your failures, and you have to recognize them, or they dont really do you any good. But you can use your failed concepts to build a path to a new, successful concept.
I mentioned the importance of 3-D CAD. By the notice that Im talking about 3-D CAD, not old fashioned 2-D CAD. Most CAD being used in the world today is still the 2-D kind. Most new CAD being sold is the 3-D kind, and thats what you need to talk to a fabber.
There are a lot of choices in 3-D CAD software to use. Some of the most well-known and commonly used are CATIA, Pro/Engineer, and SDRC. I want to point out a few new CAD programs that have been written specifically to run on the high-powered personal computer you have on your desk, instead of for Unix boxes. SolidWorks is probably the most successful of this new class of CAD software. Rhino is more for industrial design than engineering. Whats most interesting about Rhino is its distribution strategy. The beta version of Rhino is currently distributed for free on the Internet. When the final release is available sometime later this year you will also download it from the Internet and buy a code for $800 to be able to use it. In the meantime there is nothing to buy. The fully functional beta version is there for you to take and use, at the Web address shown on the screen here. Form Z is another industrial design tool that was written for the Mac. So if there are any Mac users in the room, check out this baby. Its also now available for the PC, by the way.
At the beginning, I promised you that I would show you how to accomplish three major things that seemed to me to be important in the life of a plastics product designer. Id like to check out how Ive done. Do you see how you can use fabbers to make models of new product designs in order to try out those designs quickly and inexpensively? The tests you put the models through could be esthetic or for assembly clearances or for function or they could even involve putting the designs in front of real customers. But the point is you now have a way to get a fast, inexpensive test of your design ideas.
Do you see how you can use models made on a fabber to communicate your ideas to your management, to your fellow design engineers, and to your marketing department? You have found that drawing just dont work for communicating a complicated three-dimensional product. Even photorealistic computer renderings have limitations when it comes to explaining a real product. There is nothing like the real thing, except for something that really is like the real thing, and you can make that on a fabber.
Do you see how by being able to test and communicate your ideas will help you design products that will be more successful in the marketplace and that will be less expensive to develop and to manufacture? Actually, this topic could be the subject of a whole other talk, but hopefully youve got a glimpse of what is possible from the material I have discussed with you this morning.
Some of you in the room are experienced in using fabbers already, but for the benefit of those of you who are new to the subject, I want to give you some specific suggestions on getting started. There is a free magazine that everyone on this room is eligible to receive because it is distributed to professional engineers and other people involved in product development. It used to be called Rapid News, which is the reason for the name in the Web address. Its now called Time Compression Technologies or TCT and its mostly about fabbers and other technologies that help you get products to market faster. You can sign up for a free subscription at the Web site shown. Another free source of information is the Rapid Prototyping Mailing List, which is an electronic mailing list in which about a thousand people all over the world engage in conversation about fabricators on daily basis. Its one of the wonders of the modern era that such conversation is possible, and I never miss a day of it. You can subscribe to the RP-ML at the Web site shown. Ive said it before and Ill keep saying it again and again until 3-D CAD is as common as spreadsheets. Use 3-D CAD. You cant use a fabber without it. Finally, if your company doesnt already own any fabbers, dont go out and buy one until youve used a few different ones at fab shops. You will learn a lot form doing this, and you will make a more informed selection of the right fabber when you finally do get your own.
And now Id like to answer your questions.
| A fabber (short for digital fabricator) is a factory in a box that makes things automatically from digital data. Fabbers.com is under development to bring you the latest information on fabber technologies, applications, and markets.|