Evolution in rapid prototyping/3D printing

A common remark I've heard at Lift France 11 about the session focused on fab labs and rapid prototyping dealt with the lack of business opportunities in these fields. Interestingly, the NYT had an overview of the current possibilities in this article. Various companies ranging from HP to Boeing are mentioned, showing the importance of this topic. But it's not what caught my attention. (A Fab bot encountered in Paris few months ago)

Instead, I found relevant to see what has changed in the field:

"The technology has been radically transformed from its origins as a tool used by manufacturers and designers to build prototypes.

These days it is giving rise to a string of never-before-possible businesses that are selling iPhone cases, lamps, doorknobs, jewelry, handbags, perfume bottles, clothing and architectural models. And while some wonder how successfully the technology will make the transition from manufacturing applications to producing consumer goods, its use is exploding. (...) Advocates of the technology say that by doing away with manual labor, 3-D printing could revamp the economics of manufacturing and revive American industry as creativity and ingenuity replace labor costs as the main concern around a variety of goods. (...) Manufacturers and designers have used 3-D printing technology for years, experimenting on the spot rather than sending off designs to be built elsewhere, usually in Asia, and then waiting for a model to return. Boeing, for example, might use the technique to make and test air-duct shapes before committing to a final design. (...) Moving the technology beyond manufacturing does pose challenges. Customized products, for example, may be more expensive than mass-produced ones, and take longer to make. And the concept may seem out of place in a world trained to appreciate the merits of mass consumption.

But as 3-D printing machines have improved and fallen in cost along with the materials used to make products, new businesses have cropped up."

Why do I blog this? Following up on previous talks at past Lift conferences, putting things in perspectives.