A few thoughts on the concept of concept modelers...
At Williams International we have a couple of RP machines and a third on order. One runs producing patterns for investment casting. The other is a "concept modeler" this machine spends 80% of the time doing nothing. The process is no where near accurate enough to use the parts it produces for anything. Even the parts that are produced as "concept models" are fragile and must be handled with care. Not very useful! The third machine that we are going to install falls into that realm of "desk top modeler" it produces the most detailed and precise parts that I have seen on any of the existing technologies. Very useful! The parts are suitable for casting and will augment the other machine. I was not involved in the purchase of the "concept modeler" that we have so I'm not sure what the sales guy told the guys in the front office to close the sale.
I have always made the statement that a "concept modeler" is a useless machine. And that seems to be the case with ours. I can not understand why RP manufacturers think that companies should want to buy a machine that lets designers (the guys/gals that get paid to design and presumably to "see" the 3D of their design on the screen) pop out desk ornaments all day. The concept modeler that we have and the new machine cost nearly the same. One produces parts that good for setting next to the coffee cup and the other produces parts good for highly detailed investment castings.
I remember a conversation I had with a top 3D Systems employee about the Actua and that the material would be great for investment casting (this was long before I was at Williams), his comment back was that 3D did not develope the machine for that purpose and that it (3D Systems) would not support any issues with regard to accuracy nor burn out parameters. WOW I'd like to run out and buy one of thses!
Having said the above I can't imagine the companies listed below ever getting involved in the business. Once the hype of the "concept modeler" has long since gone the reality will set in and users will want machines that produce parts, not concepts.
You will notice that I have not included any manufacturer names or equipment model numbers. This is for good reason...
Any way that's my take on the concept modeler issue from an old-time users point of view! I'm sure there are folks out there that will send some lively mail back and in fact they may love the job that there modelers are doing and thats great!
From: Terry T. Wohlers[SMTP:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 09, 1997 10:20 PM
To: Kevin Robertson
Subject: 3D printing
Kevin Robertson wrote:
> 2) There have been a few postings regarding desk top modeling and the
> tremendous market potential that exists for such a product. If such a
> exists wouldn't you be seeing major players such as Kodak, Xerox or
> Packard creating these products? I'm curious as to the thoughts of the
There's a big difference between "market potential" and a market that
exists today. It's unlikely that the companies you mentioned will enter
the market until it's substantial in size. Today, the market for office
concept modelers is small, ... so small that executives at these companies
would chuckle at the thought of developing a product for present day needs.
But these same people are trying to anticipate future markets and
opportunities. At some point, I expect that at least one corporate giant
will enter the 3D printing market. The puzzling question is, as Norman
indicated, "when will they jump in?" Determining when the market is ready
to absorb office units, at a high volume and low price point, could prove
to be more difficult to the manufacturer (without the help of a consultant
<grin>) than developing and delivering the machines.
Wohlers Associates, Inc.
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