It may take quite a bit more time but 3D printing is destined to be used in high precision assembly line manufacturing. If we need any more proof, Autodesk’s Project Escher from the Autodesk Pier 9 creative workshop just demonstrated that it can be done with filament extrusion technologies as well. Check it out.
FFF 3D printing can be scaled indefinitely, it can theoretically take place on more axes than three and, now we know, it can be done by several robotic extrusion heads working in series. Just imagine several BAAM’s (the huge 3D printer by Cincinnati Incorporated that 3D printed the Local Motors LM3D car) working together. It is not a matter of how long it takes to extrude, these machines could build anything.
The complete robotic work flow is being envisioned at many level, in high metal 3D printing as well as in plastic powder based technologies. There are many different ways to go about it and even the parts 3D printed with Project Escher’s serial machine will need to undergo a post processing phase.
Furthemore, one thing is for many 3D printing heads to work in line on the same axes and a whole other order of magnitude more complex it is for them to work at the same time on different axes. Nevertheless we have to take it one step at a time and it is always amazing how rapidly all technologies, FFF most of all, are evolving.