This MIT fabricator replaced the laser-holding head of a laser cutter with a much more advanced one, able to cut at different depths in a variety of materials, pour silver for electronic circuits, pick and place components (in this case motors, battery, integrated circuit, etc.), and finally cures the silver to make the traces conductive, securing the components in place to complete fabrication. For some projects, it even manages to cut at a specific depth, allowing the plastic to bend, creating a 3D structure.
“By leveraging widely available manufacturing platforms like 3D printers and laser cutters, LaserFactory is the first system that integrates these capabilities and automates the full pipeline for making functional devices in one system.”
As this kind of fabricating engine evolves, they will be able to handle more complex and more varied constructions, allowing for relatively small scale production, yet much faster and automated than building everything by hand. One can imagine sensor assemblies for example, placed around city to take atmospheric measurements, or quite a variety of other applications.