Rapid prototyping and fabrication are one of those technologies that you don’t appreciate (or even know are in use) until you walk into someplace like the Boston Fab Lab at MIT and run into them face-first. Things we buy in the store just sort of pop into being without the consumer knowing anything about how they were made, be it by injecting liquid plastic into a mold or using a robot to mill a block of metal into an intricate shape. Anyway, a student named Mark used a ShopBot CNC machine (the best way to describe one is a robotic router/lathe/cutter) to build himself an electric five-string violin. The neck, chinrest, and sundry metal bits were purchased off the Net but the rest he engineered himself. Future additions to his violin include winding his own electromagnetic pickups for the strings. The body pieces were designed using the drawing package that is a part of OpenOffice and run through VCarve Pro to convert them into a format the ShopBot can carve out of blocks of plastic.
Oh, if you go to Mark’s website you can hear all the music he’s played and/or written.