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Re: [z_scale] Modern era

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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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