The Wall Street Journal has a special report online that looks at the future of manufacturing as the new rapid prototyping and 3D printing tools advance and become ubiquitous. Here are a couple of quotes from the article "Advanced Manufacturing, the New Revolution" by John Koten:
"Welcome to the New Industrial Revolution—a wave of technologies and ideas that are creating a computer-driven manufacturing environment that bears little resemblance to the gritty and grimy shop floors of the past. The revolution threatens to shatter long-standing business models, upend global trade patterns and revive American industry."
"And thanks to plummeting prices, small companies have access to better, cheaper manufacturing equipment and design tools—giving even one-person startups the chance to create market-shaking innovations. Many people liken the era we're in to the early days of computing, where upstart hobbyists in their garages came up with huge advances that changed the industry."
There are a number of other articles at the link above that all predict similar revolutionary changes in worker productivity and even the global flow of goods as these technologies mature. In a lighter vein, another article by John Koten features Jay Leno who has his own 3D printer to make parts for his vast vintage car collection. Here are some quotes from Jay:
The TV host agrees that the new tools will increasingly empower other individuals and entrepreneurial ventures to make increasingly sophisticated things themselves. "Manufacturing started out with craftsmen making stuff in small cottage industries," he says. "In many ways I think we're going to go back to that cottage-industry model.
"You know, Edison had a dream that every household would generate its own electricity. And Ford wanted people to be able to distill their own fuel. In the end, maybe those dreams won't look all that far-fetched."
Music to our ears!