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Modern era

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  • Malcolm Cleaveland
    ... Zeads, I model modern, just after the BN and ATSF merger. To those who are e-mailing MTL, good luck (obviously you have time to waste). I sent a very
    Message 1 of 9 , May 1, 2004
      > "sgt_tim7" <sgt_tim1@...> wrote:
      > How many "Z" scalers are building their Railroad in the "NOW!" Modern!

      Zeads,

      I model modern, just after the BN and ATSF merger. To those who are
      e-mailing MTL, good luck (obviously you have time to waste). I sent a
      very polite e-mail suggesting that covered hoppers would be a good
      addition to their product line. The short cars have been around since the
      30s and are still around. So they could issue prototypically accurate
      items ranging in era from steam to modern with the same body style. I
      never received the courtesy of a reply, not even a short, "Thanks for your
      thoughts and patronage." (and I've spent a ton of money on their
      products.)

      Obviously my logic must have been faulty because they chose to put out a
      Gunderson Husky wellcar as their next Z body style. If they HAD to put
      out a wellcar, why not the Thrall? At least it would not duplicate the
      wonderful FR Husky stackcar.

      Modifying the Penzee hoppers will not produce an accurate model of a
      covered hopper unless the mods are <very> extensive. Of course, some of
      us are using Marklin rolling stock which involve rather severe compromises
      of prototypical accuracy, so maybe that wouldn't bother some of us. And
      others would accept it just because we really need that body style,
      accurate or not. It would be far better for somebody to produce a whole
      new body style. MTL boasts that they have more N body styles than anyone
      else and they sell out everything they make in Z, so what's their problem?

      Malcolm Z
    • zbendtrack@aol.com
      Malcolm ... The problem is that new math stuff. The research, development, tooling, molds, jigs and setup for pad printing for a given body style runs about
      Message 2 of 9 , May 1, 2004
        Malcolm

        > It would be far better for somebody to produce a whole
        > new body style. MTL boasts that they have more N body styles than anyone
        > else and they sell out everything they make in Z, so what's their problem?
        >
        The problem is that "new math" stuff.

        The research, development, tooling, molds, jigs and setup for pad printing
        for a given body style runs about $100,000.00usd.

        If the car sells for around $15 at mail order discount outlets, then let's
        venture a guess that MicroTrains sells the cars for around $8.50 each to the
        distributors (wild stab).

        That puts MTL's break-end point at something around 12,000 units sold, not
        counting the cost of money, advertising, etc.

        How long would it take to sell 12,000 cars and start making a profit? That's
        the "new math" problem.

        My numbers are just guesses. But even with better numbers, its difficult for
        a manufacture to borrow the money to come up with new product in this scale.

        The good news, is that we are getting bigger -- more and more people are
        venturing into Z scale. That will make the "new math" problem go away in time.

        Just some thoughts,
        Bill K.
        Houston




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • d.f.avila@att.net
        How about a little input from anybody that is in the mold making / NCC business. $100,000 for a mold seems a little steep based upon work I am familar with
        Message 3 of 9 , May 1, 2004
          How about a little input from anybody that is in the mold making / NCC business. $100,000 for a mold seems a little steep based upon work I am familar with quite some time ago. I am NOT up to date, but someone with a current machine shop background ought to be able to give us a fair idea as to current costs. You can go to some companies here and get a pretty elaborate laser z-scale model setup for say 100 units minimum and the costs don't approach $100,000

          ...don





          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Tom Fisher
          ... If we re posting to this group and reading the posts, then obviously we have time to waste. ... I just sent MTL an email and it s too early to have
          Message 4 of 9 , May 1, 2004
            > To those who are
            > e-mailing MTL, good luck (obviously you have time to
            > waste).

            If we're posting to this group and reading the posts,
            then obviously we have time to waste.

            > I
            > never received the courtesy of a reply, not even a
            > short, "Thanks for your
            > thoughts and patronage."

            I just sent MTL an email and it's too early to have
            received an answer. I also emailed MTL in February
            when I first started to plan a Z. Someone from MTL
            graciously responded several times to my questions.

            > If they HAD to put
            > out a wellcar, why not the Thrall? At least it
            > would not duplicate the
            > wonderful FR Husky stackcar.

            Agreed.

            > MTL boasts that they have more N
            > body styles than anyone
            > else and they sell out everything they make in Z, so
            > what's their problem?

            I agree with your point and wish I knew. When I check
            out web sites for z, the array of N stuff is amazing.
            Were it not for the space saved with Z, the selection
            of N would be too much to resist.




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          • Tom Fisher
            Tooling, molds, jigs, printing setup? Yes, they cost money that has to be recpouped. I should think with their existing design work and modern CAD/CAM, that
            Message 5 of 9 , May 1, 2004
              Tooling, molds, jigs, printing setup? Yes, they cost
              money that has to be recpouped. I should think with
              their existing design work and modern CAD/CAM, that
              the cost of setting up should be fairly reasonable
              since they already need the tool making equipment for
              both lines anyway.

              Research and development? They've already done it for
              the N scale cars we would like to see in Z.

              Advertisement? How much more would it cost to add a
              car or 2 to their existing adds and web site.

              --- zbendtrack@... wrote:
              > Malcolm
              >
              > > It would be far better for somebody to produce a
              > whole
              > > new body style. MTL boasts that they have more N
              > body styles than anyone
              > > else and they sell out everything they make in Z,
              > so what's their problem?
              > >
              > The problem is that "new math" stuff.
              >
              > The research, development, tooling, molds, jigs and
              > setup for pad printing
              > for a given body style runs about $100,000.00usd.
              >
              > If the car sells for around $15 at mail order
              > discount outlets, then let's
              > venture a guess that MicroTrains sells the cars for
              > around $8.50 each to the
              > distributors (wild stab).
              >
              > That puts MTL's break-end point at something around
              > 12,000 units sold, not
              > counting the cost of money, advertising, etc.
              >
              > How long would it take to sell 12,000 cars and start
              > making a profit? That's
              > the "new math" problem.
              >
              > My numbers are just guesses. But even with better
              > numbers, its difficult for
              > a manufacture to borrow the money to come up with
              > new product in this scale.
              >
              > The good news, is that we are getting bigger -- more
              > and more people are
              > venturing into Z scale. That will make the "new
              > math" problem go away in time.
              >
              > Just some thoughts,
              > Bill K.
              > Houston
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been
              > removed]
              >
              >





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            • Lajos Thek
              ... NCC business. $100,000 for a mold seems a little steep based upon work I am familar with quite some time ago. According to Bill, the $100,000 included the
              Message 6 of 9 , May 1, 2004
                --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, d.f.avila@a... wrote:
                > How about a little input from anybody that is in the mold making /
                NCC business. $100,000 for a mold seems a little steep based upon
                work I am familar with quite some time ago.

                According to Bill, the $100,000 included the cost of not ignorable
                research and development, additional tooling, jigs, printing
                setups,etc... For a new car design, you need an injection mold for
                the shell, an additional mold for the frame, and a few small molds
                for detail parts, so the cost of molds can reach the 65 - 70,000
                range easily. When you have the perfect (I mean PERFECT) molds, you
                still don't have the product yet. Additional steps required:
                producing the parts, painting, printing, assembly, packaging,
                marketing, distributing...
                I have to conclude, Marklin, MT, FR, Pennzee deZerves our maximum
                support, they're, proven, the real risk takers...
                Lajos
              • jim_manley_alpha_six
                GreetingZ GalZ n GuyZ of Z Wonderful World of Z, Just for the record, I want to model everything from pre-Casey Jones to post-ICE 10/Acela Grande
                Message 7 of 9 , May 1, 2004
                  GreetingZ GalZ 'n GuyZ of Z Wonderful World of Z,

                  Just for the record, I want to model everything from pre-Casey Jones
                  to post-ICE 10/Acela Grande (superconducting fuel-cell maglev trains
                  over robot-built monorails). I hope to show the largest modern-era Z
                  trains ever at NTS 2004 in Seattle (oops, that's just over two months
                  away - I'd better stop hackin' and get crackin' :)

                  Bill was right with his $100,000 guess - if it were 20 years ago. My
                  brother-in-law is a foreman who sets up, maintains, and operates
                  precisely the models of injection molding machines needed to produce
                  the sizes and quality of parts for our little trainZ. He says the
                  current cost of a 4 - 6 part mold (which is what it takes to do
                  something like a boxcar body) for parts of the size and quality we
                  need/demand/want is around $5,000 today - and dropping rapidly (it was
                  easily tens of thousands of dollars just a few years ago). The reason
                  is computer numerical control (CNC), which requires much less hands-on
                  (read labor-intensive) effort, especially once you've done something
                  similar (i.e., scaling an N-scale part down to Z scale). As
                  experience has been gained in creating the files used to direct the
                  movement of CNC machine cutters and finishers (burnishers, polishers,
                  pattern impressors, etc.), it has been encapsulated in the files that
                  control the machines. These costs will continue to come down over
                  time, to the point where it will be possible to do very low-volume
                  manufacturing on a custom basis. CNC machines are also being used
                  more and more to directly produce parts, rather than to produce
                  tools/molds/jigs/etc., that are then used to manufacture parts.

                  This rapid cost-reduction and trend toward hyper-customization is not
                  a new phenomenon. If you have never read one of Alvin and Heidi
                  Toffler's books ("Future Shock", "The Third Wave", "Creating a New
                  Civilization", etc.), stop wasting your time here for however long it
                  takes to go to your local library, pick up something like "Powershift:
                  Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century", and
                  read it cover to cover (and take copious notes). The basic thrust of
                  the Toffler's research (they include hundreds of references in the
                  footnotes in every book) and analysis is that the days of mass
                  production of millions of identical products are becoming more
                  numbered, and that computers and craftsmanship are going to take over
                  (he provides numerous examples, like how Italian shoemakers are taking
                  orders for shoes from around the world in the form of computer files
                  that contain a scan of the customers' feet - and they make custom-made
                  shoes using CNC machines to cut the leather, and their time-honored
                  sewing skills, and deliver the products to customers with a few days'
                  turnaround, for about 20% of the cost just a few years earlier). Look
                  at how many cell phone models have been pumped out over the last few
                  years, and there's no end in sight, even though the market should
                  already be supersaturated by now. They are designed and manufactured
                  using 3-D CAD/CAM/CNC software in a cycle that has dropped from
                  several years in duration to a matter of a few months now, and the
                  costs are continuing to drop precipitously (just ask Nokia,
                  Sony/Ericsson, Motorola, etc.).

                  If it really still required $100,000 to develop a new piece of rolling
                  stock, then PennZee and FR would never be able to break into the
                  market. I've seen the drawers full of injection-molded shells for
                  Harald's upcoming FP40H locos, and it's nowhere near $100,000 worth.
                  Granted, the shell molding is only one part of the cost, but even with
                  Harald's development costs for the custom machining of the frames,
                  gears, truck mechanical components, etc., it's still well under
                  $100,000 (and I doubt Harald or any other manufacturer will say
                  whether Bill and I are close). His advertised price for these little
                  gems is under $250, which is getting pretty close to Märklin prices,
                  if not MTL (but with better quality than either).

                  One of the reasons that we're starting to see new offerings from MTL,
                  and are continuing to see new models from Märklin, is that the
                  development costs for the good ol' F-7s have finally been retired (and
                  those costs could easily have been well over several hundreds of
                  thousands of dollars when those models were first created). Now that
                  the development and manufacturing costs and cycle times are shrinking
                  at an accelerating rate, we are going to be in the happy situation of
                  seeing more really new models (not simply repaints of existing shells)
                  starting to come down the pipeline (witness the rumor that AZL's next
                  loco release is not going to be brass). Oh, and BTW, I guarantee you
                  that MTL is reusing a _lot_ of N scale manufacturing equipment for
                  their Z scale line - they just do a run of Z every once in a blue moon
                  between change-outs for N scale runs. According to Kalmbach, only 1%
                  of the model railroading market is Z scale, but I think that number is
                  low, and it's going to get a lot higher as the older-generation raised
                  on O and HO begin to move down the tracks to St. Peter's Station at a
                  more rapid throttle setting, and we continue to spread the GoZpel
                  (sorry, I'm usually not that religious, especially on a Saturday
                  night, Lord knows! :)

                  Finally, the cost of tools required to create our own custom parts is
                  getting to the point where small groups of individuals (clubs, Yahoo
                  groups ... :) and even individuals (Robert Ray's laser cutter,
                  eventually my dopey home-made CNC milling machine, or the more
                  professional commercial models), can now buy and use them. It's going
                  to eventually include painting machines, micro-printers, assemblers,
                  etc., within a few years, most likely. At that point, the old mass
                  production model of making model railroad products is going to be on
                  the verge of imploding - they will have to cut their prices on
                  mass-produced products drastically, and/or become production houses
                  for limited-run, custom-designed items that we, the people, will be
                  specifying on the very same computers that we are poking away writing
                  these ridiculously long messages (well, me, at least :)

                  I am going to crawl out on a limb (who, _ME???_ ;) and say that,
                  within five years, you're going to be able to order any Z scale loco
                  or rolling stock, in any road name, style, and numbers, your little
                  heart desires, at about the same price we're paying for mass-produced
                  items now (adjusted for inflation - the Fed is raising, the Fed is
                  raising! ;) If no one else bothers, I guarantee you that I will be
                  able to do it within three years (I plan to be able to produce
                  everything _I_ want by this time next year - just in time for NTS 2005
                  - see me there! :)

                  OK, the Zoapbox iZ beginning to Zag. Time for a leZZ hefty blowhard
                  to vent hiZ/her Zpleen (or leZZ vital organ).

                  All Z BeZt,
                  Jim

                  P.S.: If anyone is keeping score, I have completed all of my training
                  and flight hours requirements for a private pilot certification, am
                  studying for the written exam, and am prepping with my instructor for
                  the check-ride with the FAA examiner in a few weeks. Z Scale Airlines
                  _will_ be operational for NTS 2004 - at least the non-commercial
                  startup will be, where cost-sharing with the pilot is allowed (and
                  lunch-box-contents-swapping will be encouraged, too! :) Ted Lamar has
                  tentatively volunteered to maybe be the first victim, I mean, crew
                  member, and may come with me on the flight to NTS, but it turns out he
                  has jumped out of perfectly good airplanes, being flown by completely
                  competent pilots, before (with a parachute - sissy! :) so he will be
                  well-prepared for the flight. And you call _me_ crazy!
                • de Champeaux Dominique
                  ... Myself I received an answer, and beyond the tone style thank you very much for your suggestion.... MTL advised me of the futures releases, and that s why
                  Message 8 of 9 , May 2, 2004
                    > To those who are
                    > e-mailing MTL, good luck (obviously you have time to
                    > waste). I sent a
                    > very polite e-mail suggesting that covered hoppers
                    > would be a good
                    > addition to their product line. I
                    > never received the courtesy of a reply, not even a
                    > short, "Thanks for your
                    > thoughts and patronage."

                    Myself I received an answer, and beyond the tone style
                    "thank you very much for your suggestion...." MTL
                    advised me of the futures releases, and that's why I
                    had soon been aware of the Gunderson and the 3-level
                    autorack (infortunately non-covered, but as soon as I
                    have samples of it, my first research will be finding
                    a way to put a "cover") that should be available by
                    next summer. So I think no one should hesitate to
                    write them...
                    Dominique






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                  • Reynard Wellman
                    Hello Malcolm, Lajos and Bill K. Again, these problems with cost vs. volume have reared up on the board. Malcolm has a good point in demanding better
                    Message 9 of 9 , May 2, 2004
                      Hello Malcolm, Lajos and Bill K.

                      Again, these problems with cost vs. volume have reared
                      up on the board. Malcolm has a good point in demanding
                      better contemporary railroad equipment and I believe that if we
                      we are patient, we will see Z products that fill these needed
                      billings. FR (Harald Fredenreich) has been doing a great
                      job of filling some of these needs. Micro-Structures (Chris Miller)
                      offered some of the first two bay hoppers as well.

                      But there are so many epochs and railroad cars to cover.
                      I believe PennZee, Marklin and especially Micro-Trains Line
                      have been doing their best to provide a small market with
                      various and fun products in Z scale at a reasonable price.
                      Modeling scale replicas of real world items sometimes requires
                      all the adventure of research, design and accomplishment
                      we find in puttering around in our own workshops.

                      "Off the shelf" finished items will always be the most cautiously
                      considered by any manufacturer. I find it encouraging that
                      recently there has be very little "duplication of effort" between
                      these manufacturers, so each one will be offering products that
                      are unique and will help widen our roster of railroad cars and
                      ancillary equipment. But It requires staff and
                      machinery, research and marketing to put those little items
                      on the shelf. Eventually we will see some great new
                      stuff pop up. Hang in there. Great Z scale stuff is being
                      developed.

                      Reynard


                      On Saturday, May 1, 2004, at 11:38 PM, Lajos Thek wrote:

                      > --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, d.f.avila@a... wrote:
                      > > How about a little input from anybody that is in the mold making /
                      > NCC business.� $100,000 for a mold seems a little steep based upon
                      > work I am familar with quite some time ago.�
                      >
                      > According to Bill, the $100,000 included the cost of not ignorable
                      > research and development, additional tooling, jigs, printing
                      > setups,etc... For a new car design, you need an injection mold for
                      > the shell, an additional mold for the frame, and a few small molds
                      > for detail parts, so the cost of molds can reach the 65 - 70,000
                      > range easily. When you have the perfect (I mean PERFECT) molds, you
                      > still don't have the product yet. Additional steps required:
                      > producing the parts, painting, printing, assembly, packaging,
                      > marketing, distributing...
                      > I have to conclude, Marklin, MT, FR, Pennzee deZerves our maximum
                      > support, they're, proven, the real risk takers...
                      > Lajos
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > "Z" WARNING! HANDLE WITH CARE!� Highly addictive in Small
                      > DoseZ!
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      <image.tiff>
                      >
                      >
                      <image.tiff>
                      >
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