January 22, 2017
// Me: You'll be very familiar with the concept of just-in-time manufacturing over in China?
// Dave: Just-in-time manufacturing, yeah.
// Me: China's just managed to completely own that whole philosophy. We've seen things like 3D printers, desktop PCB, even desktop pick and place machines. Do you see some of those desktop fabrication technologies disrupting that whole just-in-time manufacturing?
// Dave: I don't. I don't, actually. That's going to be a very unpopular opinion. There's a lot of people against me on that, but I think the evidence has brought this out. 3D printers have been around for a long time, and they did not become the Christmas gift of choice that everyone thought they would, right? It's now kind of, people are going ... They just never made it. They're still very important, very valuable. You can't just buy a 1,000 dollar 3D printer and produce some magic widget. It's still messy, and you've got to massage them, and the output's okay for a lot of stuff, but it's not manufacturing quality, and I don't see that changing.
// Dave: Desktop pick and place machines, we've debated this endlessly on The Amp Hour, for example, and it's not going to happen. It's a very narrow niche window where it's actually viable because it's, as I said before, it's so cheap and easy now to outsource your manufacturing, why would you do it yourself? Why would you dick around? You would have to be in a niche position where you've got to manufacture maybe a couple of hundred boards every couple of months, and then maybe there's a narrow window where you can make your own pick and place machine. But no, they're too much dicking around.
// Dave: There's a big step, like 3D printers, there's a big step between the low-cost do-it-yourself ones and the professional ones which give you professional results. You can say, "Oh well, just give it time." We've given it time, and they're not getting ... They're getting little steps better but it needs order of magnitude to step up, and I don't see that happening. And manufacturing your own PCBs at home, people are ... I think you mentioned, didn't you, the PCB printers?
// Me: Yep.
// Dave: One company I interviewed who was making those, they've folded because they realized it just wasn't viable, right? It's just ... No, not when you can get, for five, ten bucks, you can get a professional double-sided silkscreen soldermask plated thru board, tested, which is ... You can't possibly compete with that on your own.
// Me: Absolutely.
// Dave: So, it's only this niche window where you need it within the next couple of hours.
// Me: Like prototyping.
// Dave: Yeah, like prototyping. Okay, make your own board. Mill your own board with the milling machines. They never took off because they're dirty, they're messy, they're noisy, they're slow. They only produce ... They won't plate the holes for you, they won't soldermask, everything else. No, they're not the revolution people are making it out to be.