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#DigitalSkeptic's 5 Most Disruptive Desktop Manufacturing Tools

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Small investors are figuring out that manufacturing is getting a lot like them: small, yet interesting.

It's not news that large tool manufacturers are scrambling for a foothold in a new world of smaller, leaner, more automated top-end manufacturing systems. High-end builders such as Oxnard, Calif.-based Haas Automation; Rochester, N.Y.-based Gleason; and Portland-based Small Parts Manufacturing are turning out a new generation of smart mills, lathes and cutters.

And at least based on what I've seen in the past few months, these tools make what Vinnie Martino of American Chopper fame use look like high school metal shop.

Bob Bechtold, founder and president of Harbec, an Ontario, N.Y., high-end prototype tool and injection plastic maker, told me that he predicts a red-hot revolution in smaller manufacturing tools that can be excellent bets for smaller, crowdfund-savvy backers. Bechtold even has a hip brand name for the idea: The "Toolmaker Movement." And it includes a new generation of 3-D printers from the likes of Stratasys, 3-D Systems and Germany's Voxeljet.

To get a feel for how frothy the smaller fab device space is, check out the QU-BD One Up made by Little Rock, Ark., entrepreneur Chelsea Thompson. Right now on Kickstarter she has fetched north of $226,540 on a $9,000 goal for nothing more than a pretty simple 3-D printer that happens to cost less than $200.

And after three months of speaking with designers, manufacturers and investors, the QU-BD is most definitely not the only opportunity shaping up in crowdfunded manufacturing tools.

"The future will belong to the environmentally sustainable integration of all the parts of the production process by skilled product makers and craftspeople," Bechtel said emphatically."The dumb production line will no longer dominate."

Here are my picks for hot fab tools that should be winners in this new world manufacturing order.

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