"Manufacturing has been getting smaller, cheaper, and
more flexible for years. It's now possible to make products as
sophisticated as smart cel-phones, PDAs, toys, clothing, books, and
even houses in almost any shape or form you want down to very small
numbers. The mass production barrier has fallen, so that today,
it's possible for a home inventor, hobbyist, or crafter to create
almost anything by assembling one-off manufactured components,
either from a service or from affordable home-fabrication equipment
(or a combination of these).
"Once upon a time, almost everything was made to order —
one unit at a time. In the early to mid 19th century, though, that
changed, along with the industrial revolution, and it became much
cheaper to "mass produce" products. Over time, these economies of
scale became so great that more and more expensive-to-prototype
devices became commonplace."