I have said before that the cloud computing paradigm will not just enable us to do the things we do better, cheaper and fast, but will allow us to do things we couldn't have done at all without it.
I didn't know this until I spoke to Nick Pinkston the founder of CloudFab, but it turns out that there is a variety of what are known as 3D printers. These are essentially machines that can manufacture digital designs into physical objects -- even a single unit -- using various materials such as plastic, metal or resin.
These 3D printers are highly specialized to particular kinds of materials and processes and are very expensive. They often sit idle -- making their use even more expensive. CloudFab created a marketplace of companies who own these 3D printers and matches them with people who need to create objects out of their STL files (a standard CAD file format for 3D designs).
So in essence, you load your design file to the cloud, request the process and material, and after getting and accepting a price quote, you can have the object manufactured and sent to you. Pretty cool stuff, especially for people who want to prototype products or have small projects.
PS Do we have a new term? Manufacturing-as-a-Service? Facbrication-as-a-Service?