IPVMU Certified | 01/04/13 06:41pm
One of the hottest areas of development is '3D Printing' (see: http://www.3dprinter.net/, http://www.makerbot.com/, etc) that enables desktop production of prototypes and small-run parts.
The idea is not yet suitable for large-scale production and high-stress assemblies, as the printer only produces small parts made of a nylon or an acrylic type of plastic. The process is just now being used to produce metallic or machine pieces, but the per-piece production cost is very high compared to traditional methods.
The basic concept of 3D Printing is that a CAD model can be sent to a 3D printer that laser or heat hardens material in layers, eventually building up a physical solid from the drawing. (see: http://money.cnn.com/video/technology/innovation/2012/10/03/3d-printing-buttons-jewelry-shoes.cnnmoney/)
While not a new idea (Stereolithography has been around since the '80s), the concept is gaining awareness and popularity due to the drop in cost of printing machines and printing materials. People have begun printing 'one-off' circuit boards and hard-to-find replacement parts for electronic devices as a result.
I can see integrators or specialty manufacturers building things like covert camera mounts, enclosures, sensor boxes, and countless other odds 'n ends that custom integrations often bring up.
I am curious: are you using, or do you see opportunity for 3D printing in your business? Is it just another buzzy gadget fad?