Open the future and CRnano have pointed out the leading edge of the shift in military capability resulting from cheap yet capable UAVs. This site also noted the importance of rapid prototyping (RP) techniques being used to build capable end product. The new application is called Rapid Manufacturing.
From the 2006 wohler associates RP industry report,
- Rapid Manufacturing is 9.6% of the activity of Rapid Prototyping.
- 42% of installed systems are in the USA, 29.6% in Asia, 25.5% is Europe, 2.6% is other
- 5254 machines installed at the end of 2005, expected growth to 15,000 by 2010
- Rapid Manufacturing is inferior to established processes, blow molding, die casting, injection molding, sand casting, investment casting etc...
- Rapid Manufacturing is an additive process and does not require tooling
Rapid Manufacturing can become more useful with low cost integration with processes that can provide more flexibility and by increasing the range of materials.
Something to take note of. Almost all of the leading work and almost all of the leading capabilities in the enabling technology is in the US or with its close allies. China and Russia being the main exceptions.
best aeronautics - USA, Europe, Russia
printer technology - USA, (HP in particular)
Advanced Lasers - USA, europe, russia
making planes from mostly composites- USA, boeing (this is not trivial, notice the delays and problems that occur here.), Europe, Russia
3D printing industry is covered at Castle Island. Mostly US companies, but also leaders in europe and Israel. Some companies in Japan, Korea, China and Singapore
A table that compares different technology and companies is here
3D printing (developed at MIT), laser sintering, Laser engineered net shaping
Current limitations and performance of RP are summarized
Having more capital and a technological lead that is probably widening still matters.
Everyone has guns and bombs but those with better guns, gear and precision bombs win. Everyone will have UAVs but they will not equal either (quality and/or quantity).
Reprap (Replicating Rapid-Prototyper) information
Z Corp, one of the leading RP companies
German laser sintering company
Another list of RP companies and associations and other links
RP industry reports from Wohler associates. Need to register
Rapid Manufacturing Research Group, UK