As an outsider to the RP world, I am a little puzzled by all the hand wringing
and worry about the state of the industry. My gut feeling is that many of you
are defining the industry as the Service Bureau.
When defined as such, then I can see how you could go back and forth being
positive and negative. The Service Bureau, however, is just one business model,
and does not represent the only one. If these machines were to be sold, in
force, directly into industry, then wouldn't that be considered success?
So what is constraining this from happening? CAD. CAD is hard. It is made for
engineers. Slowly, CAD is evolving to where the creative people can use it.
FormZ seems to be taking the lead in this by promoting its use in design school
instruction. As long as CAD/CAM is dominated by engineers and programs like
CATIA and Pro/E, then it will remain in the realm of large organization R&D
When more people understand CAD, then the creative forces will find a way to
obtain RP equipment. For this reason I feel that the focus of RP manufacturers
on build size over speed and price only reinforces this limited scope of market
potential. Build size is desired by manufacturers. The early adopters of this
technology are big manufacturers of industrial equipment. Their voices are the
only ones being listened to by the RP manufacturers because they are the only
current customers. The growth, however, is with the people whose voices are not
being heard. People who are not even aware of RP now.
That is the challenge for the RP manufacturers. To hear the voices which are
not yet speaking.
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