An Interview with Jon Banquer, “Enfant Terrible” of CAD/CAM

Jon Banquer is well known in the CAD/CAM community for his daily presence on some of the most popular newsgroups. According to Google Groups, Jon wrote a total of 6,267 posts on the Usenet newsgroups since he began posting in June 1999.  See Jon’s old-profile and current-profile.  (The King of CAD/CAM Usenet groups is a guy posting as Cliff with a total of 102,027 contributions.) Jon is strongly opinionated about almost everything related to CAD and CAM, leaving comments on several forums and many blogs. His style is direct, sometimes very explicit, but always honest. His uncompromising and compulsive attitude has made him a sort of “enfant terrible” of the CAD/CAM world: he has been blacklisted on several blogs and forums, and his comments are frequently deleted (some even from the Novedge blog). In order to unveil the real person under the unstoppable torrent of posts and to get a summary of his opinions without reading all six thousand newsgroups’ contributions, I asked Jon a few questions.

Jon, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional activities?

I currently work in a machining job shop in San Diego, California. We manufacture an extensive product line of after market automotive and motorcycle parts and offer our machining and design services to others as well. Currently I spend most of my time supporting our new horizontal machining center which has 11 pallets and is capable of unattended lights out machining. We make use of modular vises and the owner’s custom designed vise jaws which are placed on tombstones.

You are a constant presence on several newsgroups. As a professional CAD/CAM user what are the benefits of being part of a user community?

no one has been able to create a moderated web forum where to read the real truth about a CAD/CAM products weaknesses

The benefit to being part of alt.machines.cnc or comp.cad.solidworks is that they are unmoderated Usenet groups. So far no one has been able to create a moderated web forum where you’re going to be able to read to real truth about a CAD/CAM products weaknesses… and all CAD/CAM products have major weaknesses. The Unmoderated Usenet format has it’s problems though as you have what amount to Internet stalkers and you have to ignore a lot of off topic nonsense. I hope one day a moderated web forum is setup that is run by those who are experienced enough with CAD/CAM to understand why users have a right to be so angry and let them express that anger. So far almost all the moderated web boards that have been setup are heavily censored and you don’t get to read the real truth about a CAD/CAM product. In addition, some web boards are setup with the main focus on making money on advertisers. This type of web board doesn’t want posters offending those precious advertisers so when you tell the truth about a product your comments end up being censored or deleted. Usenet doesn’t have that drawback and that’s very important to someone like me.

Online training and training DVDs are becoming more and more popular, replacing training classes. What is your opinion on this evolution?

what’s needed is high quality video training that covers advanced subjects in depth

The way most successful CAD/CAM product have traditionally been sold is to use a VAR network. This has it’s good and it’s bad points. The good point is that it really helps a software manufacturer sell more product. The bad is that software manufactures need a way to keep their VAR’s making money and this means that the documentation that comes with a software product is most often inadequate and very poorly done. If you want quality training you must fork over big bucks to the software manufacturer’s VAR to get the proper training. This means taking off work and spending the day(s) at the VAR’s offices. This simply doesn’t work for many of us. I believe what’s needed is high quality video training that covers advanced subjects in depth. I don’t believe software manufactures will ever offer this. I do believe it represents a tremendous opportunity for expert CAD/CAM software users who want to start their own business and make good money showing others what they painstakingly have learned… often by trail and error or through years of experience at the school of hard knocks.

Blogs, newsgroups, forums, and mailing lists can provide a lot of feedback to software manufacturers. Are they listening to the users?

Great! An easy question with a simple answer: Absolutely not.

Which of the several innovations introduced by CAD/CAM systems have the strongest impact on the end-user? Which one would you say has a marginal impact on your daily activities?

the division between design engineers and manufacturing people is probably greater than it ever has been

Machining job shops often have to work with non-native data. High level tools for modifying a “dumb” solid will have a strong impact because Feature Recognition and editing a history tree take way too much time. Machining job shops have been hard hit by the Chinese. Most successful machining job shops are run way too lean so they can make a profit for their owners. The lack of talented labor as well as just having enough labor will continue to be a major problem for machining job shops. Also, it needs to be easier to create tool-path on solid models. Having to extract wire-frame geometry from the solid model seems like a major waste of time to me.
Things like-real time rendering have a marginal impact for me but I can understand why others need better and easier rendering. It’s too bad most engineers and many software manufactures could careless about the tools that hands-on manufacturing people really need especially when I’m sensitive to the tools they need.
The division between design engineers and hands on manufacturing people (those who know how to use their hands and can actually make something) is probably greater than it ever has been despite the advances in technology.

Based on your experience, can you give new users some recommendations on how to choose a CAD/CAM software?

(when choosing a CAD/CAM) you had better do your homework and know what compromises you will have to make

Very, very carefully. You had better do your homework and know what compromises you will have to make. Suggest new users make use of Usenet and discover what users in an uncensored format really think of the software they’re thinking of purchasing.

I would like to thank Jon Banquer for accepting my challenge of being interviewed for this blog. If you have any questions for Jon or for Novedge, please leave a comment below and we will be glad to answer.

Franco Folini

UPDATE — July 8, 2007 — I had to close this blog post to further comments and to remove the personal attacks between Jon and some other newsgroups readers. Before the interview, I made an agreement with Jon about the style of the interview and the way to handle it. Jon didn’t respect our agreement, posting comments under fake names. Jon’s authentic and fake comments are all posted from the same IP address, 72.199.251.224. I can now see that my trust in Jon was misplaced.