Since prototyping is one of the ways to reduce IpOp Model Unknowns any smart and cost-effective way to produce objects is very valuable.
We knew of 3D printing but this technology seemed to be only for geeks or tech savvy experts. There is now a much easier way to produce 3 dimensional objects without buying a 3D printer: Shapeways.com will ship in a few days whatever 3D object you need for prototyping, for replacing a broken vase, for a personalized gift or just for fun.
And you are not restricted to plastic looking material. You can choose amongst more than half a dozen materials including steel. If you are not familiar with 3D software their website provides even resources and advice (including subcontractors to produce the computer file required by the 3D printer).
To find out how it works and more information look at http://www.shapeways.com/about/how_does_it_work