The Objet1000, the world's largest 3D printer as of December 2012, has a work envelope of 1,000mm x 800mm x 500mm at a 16 micron resolution. This image shows the scale of the Objet1000, definitely not something for the living room hobbyist.
The more durable plastics for 3D printers--used for auto and airplane parts, for example--generally go with the higher-end very expensive machines, since they're aimed at industrial apps, not at individuals or prototypes.
Just read an article today elsewhere about the expanding 3D printer market. The gist of it was that a main area of expansion will be manufacturing contract shops that would invest in the printers and materials and then become the go-to place for people / companies that have the need but not the resources for the equipment. Sort of like a Kinko's / contract manufacturer combo. It seems like this would be a good product for a business like that.
I think you're being a little too quick to write these technologies off for your application. In my experience EOS Materials are not flimsy.
We've had various electronic/mechanical covers and enclosures printed with EOS PA2200 (Nylon) that have seen field service for years without issue. They've easily passed durability tests that have included repeated 50mm diameter steel ball drops from 1 m without cracking or deflections of more than a fraction of a mm at thicknesses of 2mm - 4 mm. We've been printing LiPo battery enclosures (fully assembled weighing in at more than a 0.5 kg) in the PA2210FR material (flame rated) which have passed those same tests, as well as repeated drops onto hardwood floors from a 1 m.
The PA3200GF is even more durable and considerably more rigid, being glass filled.
You should connect with vendors such as EOS and 3D systems and actually get a look at what they have to offer. They even have aluminum filled materials too.
Are you considering it for a business or yourself?
In the case of business applications, I can attest to the fact that having a rapid prototyping capability is a substantial benefit to my organization. We've used printing parts in almost every phase of the product development process: Test/assembly fixture parts, manifolds in finished products, usability testing prototypes, blanks for creating silicone molds for production parts. We have 4 3D printers of varying types and frequently each is running 24/7 to keep up with our 400 person organization. Being able to get functional parts in 24 hours has a tangible benefit in cutting project schedules, and that translates directly to money.
In the case of personal use, I can also attest to the benefit to having one on hand. The parts are only 'flimsy' if you attempt to use them in an application they aren't suited for. I've been printing everything from replacement parts for appliances to electronic enclosures and children's toys with great effect on my Solidoodle. I may not 'need' it, but I'm making very good use of it.
Our office has a ObJet Alaris30 printer that fits on a tabletop and cost us over $45000, so I'm thinking the pricing mentioned in the article is an order of magnitude off. I don't see pricing on their website, so could the author verify the price?
While every company might have their own solution for PLM, Aras Innovator 10 intends to make PLM easier for all company sizes through its customization. The program is also not resource intensive, which allows it to be appropriated for any use. Some have even linked it to the Raspberry Pi.
solidThinking updated its Inspire program with a multitude of features to expedite the conception and prototype process. The latest version lets users blend design with engineering and manufacturing constraints to produce the cheapest, most efficient design before production.
MIT students modified a 3D printer to enable it to print more than one object and print on top of existing printed objects. All of this was made possible by modifying a Solidoodle with a height measuring laser.
Siemens released Intosite, a cloud-based, location-aware SaaS app that lets users navigate a virtual production facility in much of the same fashion as traversing through Google Earth. Users can access PLM, IT, and other pertinent information for specific points on a factory floor or at an outdoor location.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.