It’s stuff like this that shows how product development, design, and customization will begin to explode in the coming years: Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories’ 3D Fabrication in Sugar. (which will play right into my hands. ha!) In addition to being amazing (though I would guess it doesn’t taste too great), it illustrates a good point.
I recently read Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop-from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication which discusses the many permutations of home building and local building and small scale manufacturing of products that weren’t possible before. The coolest possibility, from my perspective (which is just about feasible today) is that someone:
2) Gets the requisite raw materials and loads them into a Fab machine.
3) Downloads a design for the object to be built from, say, an online design marketplace provided by someone such as myself. Or open source, whatever…
4) Lets the machine do it’s thing. The resulting object could be a specialized farming tool, for example, useful in a specific region of a developing country or a toy or candy, whatever.
I have simplified the whole process to a ridiculous degree, but it is a good illustration. This process may therefore more fully distribute the various functions needed to create an end product. Someone in South America might concieve of an object they would like, someone in India might design it and post the designs, then anyone in the world could download the specs and make a 3D print of the object. (Granted it will always be easier to run down to a nearby Wal-Mart, but if you live where the long arms of the Mart have yet to extend and you need an extremely specialized item… this might eventually be the way to go.)