Re: What's in a name?

From: Brock Hinzmann (SRI International)
Date: Tuesday, May 24, 1994

From: Brock Hinzmann (SRI  International)
To: RP-ML, Yakov Horenstein (Schneider Prototyping GmbH)
Date: Tuesday, May 24, 1994
Subject: Re: What's in a name?
     I think many people agree with the comments Yakov Horenstein has made about the term "rapid prototyping." Not only is it not a good description of the many current and future applications of what the contributors of this rp-mailing list understand as rapid prototyping, but it is a term that is also in use in automated printed circuit board prototyping machines and in computer-aided software engineering. 
     The problem is a basic one with all new and emerging technologies. We call computers computers (in English, at least), even though most of us don't really use them to compute, as such. We call diamond thin films diamond, although many mineralogists and other scientists argue that they are not diamond, but merely like diamond in their atomic structure. Cold fusion (if it happens at all) is not cold and high-temperature superconductivity is not hot, compared to the human living environment. Democracy, a social technology, implies rule by the people, but it is not clear that is what happens, even in so-called democracies.
     The examples above were applied to technologies by individuals trying to sell the concepts at their first inception, the popular press picked them up, and they stuck. Once everyone uses a term, it is easier to stick with it than to try to force a change. This is the problem Marshall Burns is having getting people to listen to his call for a new term, even though he is correct (his book, Automated Fabrication: Improving Productivity in Manufacturing, by the way, is quite good and easy to read, at least the parts that I have read so far). 
     Just as computers evolved into mainframes, minis, PCs, workstations, laptops, and so forth, it could be that rapid prototyping will evolve into other categories of industrial free-form fabricators, microfabricators, desktop prototypers, and personal model builders/fabricators. However, this will occur naturally, as some technologies work and others (and the companies associated with them) fail. I think that is what is so exciting about this industry. It is just beginning, but has the potential to change the very nature of the way we think about the products we make and use in our everyday lives. The notion of mass production of many personal objects and devices, except for the most basic materials and components, could disappear entirely. I am not that worried about finding an all-encompassing name for such equipment that is logical (the way we sell most consumer goods today defies any logic) as much as I am something that works. 
     However, I applaud the efforts of Yakov and Marshall to get at the truth and it is a good topic for us to discuss on rp-ml. I would like to hear what others have to say.
Brock Hinzmann

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