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Re: [z_scale] Modern era

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  • 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 1 of 9 , May 1, 2004
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      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 2 of 9 , May 1, 2004
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        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 3 of 9 , May 1, 2004
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          > 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 4 of 9 , May 1, 2004
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            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 5 of 9 , May 1, 2004
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              --- 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 6 of 9 , May 1, 2004
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                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 7 of 9 , May 2, 2004
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                  > 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 8 of 9 , May 2, 2004
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                    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!
                    >
                    >
                    >
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                    >
                    >
                    <image.tiff>
                    >
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