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  #1  
Old 01-02-2007, 02:21 AM
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Default Design goals

As I like talking about rockets, and now have another reason to talk about them. I'm putting stuff out here to talk about.

It is my understanding that one of the end "goals" of this is to bring real, viable, flyable, products to market. To that end what would be some good design goals/limits?

COTS Only Parts
Upside:
I figure incorporating COTS parts might be good. It would require less fabrication, no real custom parts, would be very easy and cost effective to prototype.

Downside:
You end up with more 3FNC/4FNC/5/FNC etc

Semi custom with COTS
Upside:
Still basically all COTS except for some parts that are simple and easy to fabricate. Say new fin patterns, strakes, minor modifications to transitions parts. It will allow new looks to "old frames" with a minimum in fabrication time.

Downside:
There are lots of variations on a theme out there already. The current mega retail rocket kits are a prime example.

Military Kits
Lots of the military kits are pretty popular. There's a bit of a vacuum out there in low and mid power kits.

Upside:
Lots of designs out there, royalty free. Many are "flight ready".

Downside:
Might require prototypes for test flying as lots of military rockets/missiles are flight stable due to technology.

thoughts?
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  #2  
Old 01-07-2007, 01:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CQBArms
...COTS...


If I understand the reference, you mean "Commercial Off The Shelf"; then I think I have to disagree a bit. That's the "battle" we're fighting now with Estes. They've commercialized their "parts" down to a bare minimum for basic designs, and they've concentrated on stuff that would be difficult at best to duplicate, even if there was something in their line-up we even wanted to duplicate. What they've been fielding with their "stock" parts has been ridiculous and uninspired, to be kind; and their "stock" parts have, also to be kind, sucked in quality. That's a direct result of COTS.

SEMROC has gone in the other direction, and filled their bins (virtual / real) with components we can actually use, and actually want to use. That means we have more to work with, and our creativity is vastly improved, if not outright superior, compared to what Estes has demonstrated in the last few decades as a result. I'll put some of our resident forum designers -- myself included -- up against any that Estes has had in the past or is considering for the future. Further, each time someone has made a suggestion for a new component, Carl has taken the time to look into actually producing the part. Estes would never consider doing something so "customized" as producing simple components just because one of us asked.

Carl also has one advantage that Estes long ago forgot: You can introduce new balsa components to the market in quantity faster than you can a new plastic component. For him, it's just a digital file on a hard disk and a pile of raw balsa in the feed hopper. I suppose one can call that aspect COTS, if the shelf is a computer. Laser-cut fins are the same.

Traditional COTS would take things back to a "least-common-denominator" style of parts inventory that kills serious design efforts. That's been the bane of model rocketry for too long. We need the diversity of Carl's approach to strengthen the hobby. The COTS approach needs to die a quick death.
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  #3  
Old 01-07-2007, 08:48 PM
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When I look at most kits, body tubes...sort of standard diameters. Nose cones, standard diameters (and types), materials balsa planks (fis cut in many different ways but lots of the same patterns 3F, 4F, launch lugs, engine mounts, shock cords, parachute systems, all pretty much standard stuff.

So unless you are building an entirely custom rocket with new concepts of engine mount, odd sized body tubes, recovery etc. It's going to include a large percentage of COTS parts. There's no way around it.

Now certainly you can flavor it up by increasing the percentage of "new parts" but actually look at a rocket and look at what percentage is "new stuff" and what's actually COTS parts. That goes for just about any mfg out there.
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Old 01-07-2007, 09:08 PM
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I will give you an example:

If I was able to build my own engines and rockets. I would reevaluate the entire concept of design from the ground up. Why are they 18mm, 24mm, 29mm engines. Not to sound Spinal Tap 'ish" but why not 20mm motors? 25mm, 30mm.
If you can build the whole system, engines to rockets...build something entirely different.
Sure you can continue to make and market standard sizes...but maybe there's innovation in a system that is not like all the other sizes out there.

I've read some of the posts in the other threads and it's "bring back this or that" ...bring back the century style parts kits. I look at the stable of Semroc kits, and most seem to be designs that have already been made and now are brought back or upscaled sort of COTS plans. Now I am a HUGE fan of Semroc, and love the company. I think they are the best thing out there, bar none...but now is a chance to redefine model rocketry. Why not take the big plunge...now motors, new mounts, new kits. Make it something exclusive to Semroc. A single source provider.
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  #5  
Old 01-07-2007, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CQBArms
When I look at most kits, body tubes...sort of standard diameters. Nose cones, standard diameters (and types), materials balsa planks (fis cut in many different ways but lots of the same patterns 3F, 4F, launch lugs, engine mounts, shock cords, parachute systems, all pretty much standard stuff.

So unless you are building an entirely custom rocket with new concepts of engine mount, odd sized body tubes, recovery etc. It's going to include a large percentage of COTS parts. There's no way around it.

Now certainly you can flavor it up by increasing the percentage of "new parts" but actually look at a rocket and look at what percentage is "new stuff" and what's actually COTS parts. That goes for just about any mfg out there.


Well, there's traditional COTS and then there's Carl...

You can call any collection of parts COTS as long as those parts remain in the inventory. With almost every rocket design, the fins make up the most visible difference; body tubes are standard, nose cones follow "standardized" shapes and lengths, and the rings are fairly uninteresting by themselves. I suppose those items constitute COTS since we need them in every design...

COTS, though, is mostly an accounting method generally used to justify a reduction in (unique line item) parts count across production lines. Autos, computers, and other appliances are great examples of where that concept works well. It is also a good example of the concept taken to an extreme. Remember the Oldsmobile? Where is it today? It used to be GM's premere new-concept line...

I like SEMROC's concept of continually adding new parts to the collection whenever feasable. It's not like Carl really has to keep tons of non-shipped components in a warehouse all the time, taking up space and keeping his capital tied down. He produces enough to fill the immediate orders, and maybe a few for the bins, and that's it. He doesn't have to make any turned parts if nothing has shipped; filling those kit bags takes enough to justify keeping a few "old standards" in higher quantity, but even there he's not going to go overboard. Carl's COTS are dynamic... [OK, I know that's a dangerous phrase, Bill. No snickering from the peanut gallery! ]

I guess it's our perspective of what is "off the shelf" and what isn't. Turned parts, rings, and tubes certainly qualify. Carl, though, is using an older concept of a model rocketry company that caters to builders and designers, not impulse buyers; that requires a much larger variety in the parts he offers. Estes (and Centuri) started off that way until the "big dogs" came barking. Now, they're just one combined company catering to a short-term-attention-span customer who may or may not come back in a week for more. They were COTS-ed to death. Now, compare the product lines of Estes and SEMROC. Whose kits do you prefer? How did Carl get there? By not being what Estes became, but instead becoming what Estes once was: A hobbyist-oriented model rocket company.

By whatever name you want to call it, Carl's method works. We're benefitting from his efforts, he's not feeling too badly, and there's far more to come. No matter what Estes does today, I don't think they have the momentum anymore. Too little, too late, with no real understanding of what they did wrong. That's why I have such a negative feeling about the COTS concept when it comes to our hobby. I've seen it at its worst already. Carl is trying to counteract the damage, and that's a good thing.
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  #6  
Old 01-07-2007, 11:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CQBArms
I will give you an example:

...but maybe there's innovation in a system that is not like all the other sizes out there.

... Make it something exclusive to Semroc. A single source provider.


I think it's important to clarify a little more what we may mean by some of these concepts. I participate in an industry distinguished by proprietary technology; no plug and play, no standards to speak of, and significant after-sales costs to the Owner. These aren't qualities that we would necessarily want in Model Rocketry. As consumers, hobbyists, and amateur rocket scientists, we benefit directly from a "standard" that has gradually emerged over time. This standard (the genesis of which is largely lost in the mists of time), and the manfufacturer's adherence to it, allows costs to be minimized to us, the User, because generally everyone follows it and most stuff is interchangeable. My (insert manufacturer of choice) 18 mm motor will fit in the body tube of (other manufacturer of choice), and I can finish my rocket with nose cone XYZ (from yet another manufacturer of choice). While it may have its peculiarities (e.g.: why should a BT-60 be 40.5 mm in ID, as opposed to some other, rounded, size?), it nevertheless works, and keeps our building costs low, which we all appreciate.

The concept of COTS engenders the idea of diverse/3rd party market support; so long as everyone works towards the same standard, then much of the stuff can be categorized as COTS. But that doesn't mean that innovation is dead; quite the opposite, as the manufacturers must now differentiate in other ways (like service), with the breadth of the product line, and with the technologies incorporated within the products.

Semroc's strategy should avoid exclusive or proprietary technologies or parts except in those occasional cases when they're absolutely necessary (high performance propellant formulations might be an example); instead it should make the hobby as accessible as possible by engaging as many segments of the market as possible (for some it's kits, for others it's parts, motors, etc, etc), and by making the cost entry points as low as possible. Working with the so-called "standard" is central to this, and by being a price competitive supplier of a full product line, Semroc will be able to do this, and will quickly backfill much of the market share vacated by other suppliers. Part of the secret in accomplishing this is to manage capital investment (knowing the market and the customer base is important to this). Estes and Semroc have two different views of the market, and have two different strategies as a result. I think we're very fortunate that this is the case.
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Old 01-08-2007, 11:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Brohm
My (insert manufacturer of choice) 18 mm motor will fit in the body tube of (other manufacturer of choice), and I can finish my rocket with nose cone XYZ (from yet another manufacturer of choice). While it may have its peculiarities (e.g.: why should a BT-60 be 40.5 mm in ID, as opposed to some other, rounded, size?), it nevertheless works, and keeps our building costs low, which we all appreciate.

Semroc's strategy should avoid exclusive or proprietary technologies or parts except in those occasional cases when they're absolutely necessary (high performance propellant formulations might be an example); instead it should make the hobby as accessible as possible by engaging as many segments of the market as possible (for some it's kits, for others it's parts, motors, etc, etc), and by making the cost entry points as low as possible. Working with the so-called "standard" is central to this, and by being a price competitive supplier of a full product line, Semroc will be able to do this, and will quickly backfill much of the market share vacated by other suppliers. Part of the secret in accomplishing this is to manage capital investment (knowing the market and the customer base is important to this). Estes and Semroc have two different views of the market, and have two different strategies as a result. I think we're very fortunate that this is the case.


Yep! There is some benefit to having the Quest and Estes plastic, too. Some of those plastic fin cans make great high performance rockets with relatively small diameter tubes and big motors. With them going their direction and Semroc going his direction, we are all benefitting. While BMS did a good job of filling in for Estes, Centuri fans were in dire straits until Carl came along, though. Speaking of which, I love the concept of the Classic link on Carl's site - find a kit you like and build it by selecting the parts and putting them in your cart! Too cool!!
James
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Old 01-11-2007, 10:34 PM
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On the one hand I agree, on the other I don't.

I think there is room in design for a pure COTS re-blended, a partial COTS rocket with some modification (different nose cone or fins) . They are very quick to prototype and quite frankly easy to produce once an accepted prototype is made.

I do also think that leveraging totally proprietary technology is great and I don't see why they can't all run simultaneously.


One the firts like you innovate with pure COTS, granted not that exciting BUT it gets a product out there and fairly fast.

Second line is taking some COTs parts getting some minor custom parts, and building up.

Third line is totally new designs or designs based on new technology. Look at that builders corner, lots of "been done" rockets revised to leverage new technology.
For me I would rather see new technology AND entirely new designs but at least it is leveraging the new technology AND would effectively get something to market that can use it.
There's no sense in having a bunch of new motors with nothing to put them in.
Another option would be to design retrofit kits for some of the smaller models to use the smaller motors. Again a COTS or proven design adapted to a new technology.
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Old 01-11-2007, 11:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rocket_james
Yep! There is some benefit to having the Quest and Estes plastic, too. Some of those plastic fin cans make great high performance rockets with relatively small diameter tubes and big motors. With them going their direction and Semroc going his direction, we are all benefitting. While BMS did a good job of filling in for Estes, Centuri fans were in dire straits until Carl came along, though. Speaking of which, I love the concept of the Classic link on Carl's site - find a kit you like and build it by selecting the parts and putting them in your cart! Too cool!!
James


Try the experimental link . It lets you filter to narrow down the choices.

Oh, if you put a % in front of the filter text, it searches for any occurance instead of "starting with".
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Old 01-12-2007, 12:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl@Semroc
Try the experimental link . It lets you filter to narrow down the choices.

Oh, if you put a % in front of the filter text, it searches for any occurance instead of "starting with".


Awesome!!
Thanks for the help. I need it!

Have you gotten any feedback on the Classics page from folks using dial-up? There's a lot on that page. It takes several seconds to load on my computer, and I've got DSL. It might be worthwhile to have an intermediate page that allows the selection of a particular manufacturer, then use the filters on the subsequent page.

I really didn't have any appreciation for the problems faced by folks with dial-up until we made our last move. The area we moved into temporarily, until we got the house we're in now, didn't have DSL access, only dial-up. Ugh! What a pain! I started to notice load times for web pages after that.

James
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