Well, my favourite music programm Reason
by Propellerheads does do such things.
Reason Developers can add new devices/instruments (they call it Rack Extensions, RE) to Reason and sell it through their shop. The idea is, that the RE-developers create the idea and Propellerheads looks, that it works, no matter which platform, graphics, soundcard etc. This includes also the visible part of the device, the knobs, buttons, switches, and so on. A developer needs to define all the knobs etc. as a 3D map and they render from that some 2D images. The results are compelling (for example: https://shop.propellerheads.se/product/e670-equalizer/
- this graphics is rendered for the shop only)
I know, this is somehow complicated, but I think this direction only leads into something, which can be used in some future.
And it would make the work much more easier!!
I think about so: Currently Albert delivers the pure graphics to the factorio-devs. I mean, they found some way speed things up in this process, but it is still many work by hand.
What if Albert delivers only the 3D-modells and the rest is made in a build-process?
And once there is such a build-process, and it is working reliable, why not using other models from other mod-developers or other artists and put them also in this queue? The advantage would be, that they would have the same look, resolution and so on.
And (!) they can calculate the shadows from different angels, because they have the 3D-model. And from that point on, you can do much more really, really cool stuff, like the link above....
Well, just some thoughts...