A very interesting development appeared at the Sculpteo 3D print service: parameterized OpenSCAD.
Whoa, you say, what's that? Let's start at the beginning: OpenSCAD is a utility that can produce 3D models by using typed commands to create and bend shapes. Gradually a complex model is created by combining and bending enough shapes together. Normally only the model's designer sees the commands that produce the model.
Parameterized input is the key here. It's simply a method of poking the commands to produce slightly different models. Make that hole 10mm instead of 5mm, for example.
But why is this so important? It's because 3D print services face a very difficult problem. 3D printing is most economical when unique, one-off items are produced. Yet the libraries of 3D models available at 3D print services are typically static and unchangeable. The question is, how can you enable customized 3D models?
The answer is to permit designers to use OpenSCAD models, but also accept input from customers that can customize the model. For example, a nameplate model could accept a person's name and instantly generate the 3D name on the plate. That's customization!
Sculpteo just enabled exactly that for their designers. An ingenious designer could create highly customizable models in this way. We expect to see some very interesting models emerge from Sculpteo's library over the next year.