Zenpundit had a recent post on 3-D printing. I’m only in the very early stages of researching this field, but thought it might be useful to put up a few links on the subject.
An overview of 3-D printing at ExtremeTech
Another overview at PC Magazine
A more detailed view, with a discussion of industrial applications, at the Engineer
CFM International, a joint venture between GE and the French aerospace company Snecma, will be using 3-D printing to make certain components for the Leap series of turbofan engines. They cite an example of a component which previously required the brazing together of 15 or 20 separately-fabricated piece parts and which will now be made as a single printed entity.
Is 3-D printing a huge bubble?, at Seeking Alpha
3-D printing’s intersection of promise and reality, also at Seeking Alpha
A couple of other approaches to the fabrication of one-off and low/medium-volume items:
eMachineShop.com is a service which provides remote (Internet) access to a whole range of fabrication technologies, including CNC turning and milling, casting, extrustion, and waterjet cutting…as well as 3-D printing. A downloadable CAD package allows the user to design a part, get a price quote, submit it for manufacturing (using whatever combination of machines is required for the task), and get the part(s) sent back to him.
Protomold is focused on providing fast turnaround for injection-molded parts. The customer electronically sends them a CAD model and fills out an on-line quote form; after the price and terms are accepted the company fabricates the mold (out of an aluminum alloy) and then makes the parts from the selected resin. You can play with the quote form here.
It’s interesting to note that Formlabs, a 3-D printer venture that Zenpundit mentioned in his post, is using Protomold services to make components for their printers. Protomold sees its services as complimentary to, and synergistic with, 3-D printers