When I wrote yesterday about the Honda RC174 replica being built, I noted one of the problems in doing so was the lack of drawings. To complete the project, they needed an original and took photos, measurements and X ray images to get all of the necessary information to duplicate what Honda had done. However, once done, you have the raw input data for today’s technology to do it again.
This is exactly the point I brought up some time back in my post on perpetual motorcycles. If you can get all of the input data for today’s advanced computer controlled manufacturing, you have the ability to produce a machine forever. There is no longer any reason for a part to become unavailable, like a book in a computer that never goes out of print because you can print one on demand, once a blueprint is in a computer you can manufacture on demand.
Over at Make, they have story about industrial archeology where CAD is being used to create 3D images of old machinery that is long gone or perhaps, never even existed except as a sketch. But once it’s in the CAD software, using one of the rapid prototype machines to produce a solid part is now possible. There is even a company with a machine using EBM (electron beam melting) to produce parts that are more than a prototype, they’re actually usable replacement parts.
We are getting so close to manufacturing on demand or rapid manufacturing, that any gearhead should be getting all tingly inside thinking about the possibilities. Depending on the size and complexity of the parts involved, which will determine the size and expense of the necessary machinery, we could see an explosion of smaller shops turning out whatever parts and pieces they want.
Quite a few years ago I remember when desktop publishing was just starting and it was the combination of an Apple laser printer and Aldus Pagemaker software that turned anyone into a newsletter publisher, The Kneeslider was originally in print! 🙂 , after a while the printers and software rapidly improved until everyone was a desktop publisher to varying degrees of success. While the cost of rapid prototype or electron beam melting equipment is going to slow that sort of thing down a bit, the profit potential in this area will find many companies moving quickly in this direction.
I have been amazed at the speed this has all been developing since I first heard of it. We are going to see this become commonplace much sooner than you or I might think and I can’t wait.