While the number of rapid prototyping machines is growing as designers (especially) and engineers become increasingly interested in having solid, physical 3D representations of products under development, an alternative to making models with polymers or sintered metals will become available during Q1 of '05: The means to produce actual parts with the bona fide materials in one's own office.
This is the possibility provided by the "Office Series" of machines from Haas Automation (Oxnard, CA; www.haascnc.com). There are two machines in the lineup, the OL-1, a lathe with a 5C collet spindle and a 5-hp, 6,000-rpm spindle motor, and the OM-1, a mill with an 8-in.3 work envelope and a 270-W electric spindle motor.
Interesting aspects of the machines: they are designed so that they can be moved through a standard 36-in. office door, and require just 240-V power and air (1 scfm @ 40-70 psi). Base price: $34,999.