This post did not receive any comments on reprap before, so I wanted to bring it up again. I've detailed it out in my blog here: [armanicreations.com] but I would like to rehash it plain and simple.
If you can print the following 6 types of materials, you can make almost anything that is a common functional "as seen on TV" type item, but may stretch with some imagination into printing a full automobile.
The 6 Pillars of a full 3D printer include:
A Soft, Rubbery Material
A Conductive Printable Material
Full Color Coatings (possibly including ‘clear’ to simulate glass)
An example of this is a rubber filament I am developing. The rubber filament when printed dense has a Shore A 80 strength, similar to a hard tire or shoe. Now if you print it with very low density, like 10%, it becomes as stretchy as a rubber band - closer to Shore 20 or 30. Now in one material, you have a full range of structural "squishy" or rubbery properties. Add element #6 (color coatings) and you also have any color of squishy material. In fact, the more material types you can print at the same time, you get an exponential increase in the types of products you can create.
While in principle, the vast majority of functional machines could be made this way, some special items would be excluded, like platinum catalysts or glass windows, specialty glazings, ultra low conductivity materials of the future, etc. The question I have for you is will Reprap ever be able to print advanced materials like these (imagining, some crazy Moore's law and economies of scale over 50 years or so) or will it always be competing against traditional IC manufacturing, require pick and place, specialty rare earth magnets, etc...?
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/08/2012 09:50PM by Simba. Measure once, Cut twice, Print 3 times.