Over in the "Bike for a South American Tour" thread, several folks have stressed the importance of "hand-built wheels". I don't pay much attention to the current state of bike parts & frames, and I thought to myself that surely ALL bike wheels are still hand-built. I've built wheels myself. In fact, I just built a new 20" rear wheel for my Bike Friday. (I literally wore away the rim metal from braking after an estimated 30,000 miles of wear. BTW, the wheel stayed remarkably true to the end, one of the nice features of small wheels.) But I was curious whether machine-built wheels actually exist. So a quick google search provided the following link, which blew me away:
It's basically a sales video for a very impressive wheel building machine. I had no idea such machinery existed. The lacing isn't entirely automated, but the rest of the process is. I have no idea how reliable and accurate this machine is, but I have to wonder whether a "hand-built" wheel is necessarily better.