This is the difference between “memory” systems (like CNC) and sensor-controlled systems. The feedback loop is where its at. Once you have a feedback loop you can start applying genetic algorithms to problems – and basically create a one-solution-fits-all approach to creating things.
I was over the other side of the country yesterday – small town in NZ (ok the 14th biggest, but it’s still small)… and the engineer guy that I’m getting to build my next project told me there were 8 other firms that do CNC-controlled metal-folding in town. His own shop was large-garage sized. Single office, couple of people attending the machines. Similar sized operation to one I just visited in my own town – who have a 9-axis CNC machine. The guy who I was talking to talked a lot about a “lights-out” operation… basically you set the machine up, leave for the night, come back in the morning and its basket contains 100s of things that its made.
Meantime, I occasionally get parts made for me in China – 5000 units at a time. I talk to someone named Jane… and we swap photos of our cats etc. I was picturing something similar – but I saw a brochure the other day and their plant looks like the matrix – machines arrayed to infinity in all directions.
So while we still have a planet, that looks to me like the shape of manufacturing – small, local high-tech shops that can make pretty much anything… and massive automated plants somewhere else on the planet that can deal with huge scales. Whether there’s anyone left who can afford to buy any of these products is another matter… and I guess that’s where the DIY stuff comes in… but I don’t think DIY is ever going to catch up with the high-tech end of things.
Unless it starts using sensor-feedback loops and genetic algorithms. Repraps always were about evolution. Natural-selection is built into the model. Kindof makes sense that the software itself uses natural selection at a much lower level, so the process of machine-creation is much more organic.