The FABulous Fabber! A presentation on digital fabrication, with links to additional information.
|[Photo courtesy Steve Deak, Hasbro, Inc.]|
Fabbers used to heal a young boy. What would you do if you had to perform an operation on a 14-year-old boy in which you had to reconstruct the bones of his skull to heal a birth defect so he could hopefully become a normal, healthy boy for the first time in his life? Youd want to get it right, of course, but if there were some bony structures that werent clearly defined in the X-rays, you might not know if your surgery could be successful until after taking scalpel to skin in the operating room. Unless you had the benefit of a plastic model of the boys skull to show you exactly what you were dealing with. For the story of one boys life improved by a pair of fabbed surgical planning models, see Fabber Applications: Surgical Planning.
What is a fabber? A fabber is a factory in a box that makes things automatically. It uses digital data from a computer to fab products and models of new products. Its like a computer printer, but instead of printing a picture on a flat sheet of paper, it fabs real things in real, solid material. For more information on fabbers, see What is a Fabber?.
3-D design environment. Design of products in the future will be done in a 3-D work space on the designers desk or table, in which he or she will sculpt the new product in virtual clay.
The images on this slide are from brochures advertising two products that are moving us closer to this 3-D design environment. They are the CrystalEyes 3-D viewing system from StereoGraphics and the FreeForm modeling system from SensAble Technologies.
For a description of how working in the 3-D design environment will affect manufacturing and how it will undo the harmful effects of the industrial revolution, see the article, Automated FabricationThe Future of Manufacturing.
Using Fabbers Today and Tomorrow
|[Photo from A Touch of Science by Kathy A Svitil in Discover, June 1998, page 80.]|
Scientific visualization. John Johnson learned more from 15 minutes with a model in his hands than he had from 15 years as the worlds foremost expert on the black beetle virus. For more on this story, see Fabber Applications: Scientific Models.
Huge savings in manufacturing. Ford is saving millions of dollars each year from one simple set of models fabbed and sent to four vendors with a bid request. For the story, see Fabber Applications: Bid Requests.
Fabbers today are big, expensive machines costing upwards of $250,000 and using toxic chemicals or powders. They are like the old mainframe computers of the 1960s that needed a temperature controlled environment and specially trained operators. Todays machines are paving the way for a new generation of small, affordable office machines. Beyond that, we will even see inexpensive personal fabbers for use in the home and home-run businesses.
The machines shown here are, going clockwise from the top left, the SLA 250 by 3D Systems, the Genisys by Stratasys, the Z by Z Corp., the ThermoJet by 3D Systems, and the Model Maker by Sanders.
For information on how these machines work, together with a list of all additive fabbers available on the market today, go to Todays Fabbers.
For more information. A great source of information on fabbers is fabbers.com. There you will find descriptions of todays technology and applications along with a vision of tomorrows fabbers and their impact on how people will work and play in the 21st century.
Changes in the Value Chain
The value chain in industrial distribution. The impact of fabbers on the economy can be compared to the way the Internet has affected the value chain for distribution of products. In the industrial era, which we still live in but is coming to its end, goods pass through many hands on their way from where they are made to the person who is going to own them.
The value chain in Internet distribution. The Internet eliminates the need for many of the intermediaries between manufacturer and customer. Manufacturers like Dell Computer have created a new paradigm of direct distribution, which not only reduces the cost and time to fulfill orders, but also allows for effective feedback between the manufacturer and customer.
An alternative value chain in Internet distribution. While the Internet makes it possible for manufacturers to deal directly with their customers, it also allows for intermediaries in cases where they can bring added value to the distribution.
The value chain in industrial production. Just as industrial distribution involves layers of intermediaries between the manufacturer and the customer, industrial production involves layers of processing between the concept and final realization of the product.
The value chain in fabber production. Fabbers eliminate the need for the intermediate steps, allowing new concepts to be represented directly in solid material, which may be a prototype or the actual final product, depending on the requirements for materials, accuracy, strength, etc. In fact, the distinction between what is a prototype and what is a product becomes less meaningful because a particular design may be fabbed and used for a period of time, then redesigned and refabbed for further use. Then each iteration is both a useful product and also a prototype of the next iteration.
The fabbers elimination of steps in the production of material goods, together with the resulting iterative loop that allows for constant improvement, is analogous to the Internets elimination of intermediaries in the distribution of products and the resulting improved communication between manufacturer and customer. The fabbers impact on society and the economy will, for this and other reasons, be as profound as that of the Internet, if not more so.
| 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.|