If you're to believe traditional craftsmen, computer-aided design and manufacturing removes the romance from making things. Well soon there'll be a half-way house: a hand-held CNC milling machine.
The device, called FreeD, is a hand-held, digitally controlled, milling device developed by MIT. Basically, it uses data from a computer to guide and monitor the milling bit of the machine, providing the rough shape of the object that is being created, but allows the user some freedom. According to the designers:
"Its interaction is either by slowing down the spindle speed or by drawing back the shaft; the rest of the time it allows complete freedom, letting the user to manipulate and shape the work in any creative way."
That means that no two items made using FreeD are ever the same — maybe not something to use for precision applications, then — but it brings some of the artisan skill back into making. It allows some of the pre-mediated computer design that everyone's so fond of these days, with the ability to actually engage with the process of making stuff — and I think that's pretty neat. The device is still in development, but you can see it in action in the video to the left. [FreeD via MAKE]