Well so they have, I would have guessed you needed ablation to be able to blow away the copper, and that's what they have done, I'm guessing it's a NdYAG operating at 1064nm , these pulsed laser traditionally operated slowly, < 100 shots / second, too slow to make a PCB.
Somehow they have managed to get 10-100 thousand shots / second, that's going to be an expensive piece of kit. $50k??
I have some cost effective NdYag lasers in the cupboard, that can manage one shot per second, thats a 50um diameter crater every second, take a couple of years to make one PCB.
Funny... LPKF already has a commercially available PCB laser etching system available so the theory is sound. Their system is capable of etching copper off just about all standard materials including FR4 and Rogers.
We are already getting close to this as a reality. There is a manual pick and place design up on thingiverse already that would lend itself to automation fairly easily. With the addition of motors and driver software the design could readily be adapted. I was already considering doing it however I have yet to encounter the mythical "free time". Realistically the design could be built for under $300 including all motors and drivers. It would not include the ability to reflow them but that could be added later. The first step would be home building a automatic pick and place.
If they do successfully finish them, they won't make any money. I bet they lose money on them. They are 800 dollar products that they are selling for 200 dollars and I bet they will suck. No examples of their output.
A nice way of putting it Duane! Sometimes you have to go back and look at what you have already done at some point later to see if you can do it better. For one, you should now have your lessons learned on what you liked and what you think that you can do better.
I am sad to see that you have not taken up the challenge. I really am. Good healthy debate is ok, it helps everyone from time to time to reevaluate positions. Unfortunately good debaterequires effort and not just three sentence zingers.
The first link there from Engadget actually encapsulates a lot with what we are trying to do with this project. We are looking to go smaller than is traditional. This allows us to reduce the size of the components as well as power requirements. This in turn reduces cost. I would invite you to read that story as it even serves as a good look at concepts such as engineering trades.
re: "If it can be done then someone else probably already did it, so buy their solution."
I kind of think that much of what engineers do is reinvent the wheel. In fact, I don't think technology can really advance if we don't spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel. I like my kelvar belted radial tires with grippy all-season tread.
Ok, so you have shown that there are a small percentage of products that fail, but then I could counter your point with the fact that there are a larger percentage of products that succeed. So the point you have made is negated. Just to start, I will list a few that have become successes: Red Pitaya, Peble Smart Watch, Arduino Screwblock Proto Shield, Hexairbot, Oculus Rift, etc. These are just the ones that I can name off the top of my head without doing any web searches.
Though back to the point of debate, please show me on 3D printers that I listed will cost $1000 to make but the vendor will sell them for $300. This is an important part of debate and learning. Substantiating your point. I have no problem having a difference of opinion, but in order to convince me of your point, you will need to do so with specific, applicable analysis and substantiation. I would estimate that to do this properly that it would actually be around 400-800 words. The gauntlet is laid down my friend, I hope you accept the challenge and help us learn by a more thorough analysis.