Rapid prototyping expert Terry Wohler has posted a recent entry on his website discussing the general state of rapid manufacturing. From the piece (Link):
Rapid manufacturing, in both its direct and indirect forms, eliminates the need for tooling such as molds and dies. Tooling is usually a necessary evil in manufacturing, but the many examples that I’ve found prove that it can be eliminated.
My guess is that for every example that I’ve found, there are another 5-10 examples that we will never hear about. This means that there could easily be as many as 300 to more than 500 cases in which companies have applied the concept of rapid manufacturing. That’s exciting, especially when you consider that it’s in its infancy.
Virtual spaces with 3D modeling tools. Global, collaborative design. Files sent anywhere electronically. RM parts created using open source machines and then assembled by micro-robots. It’s going to be a wild ride soon enough.