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Re: Modern era

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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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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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