Mark, the AFCI devices were claimed to be available from 1999 through 2001, when they were withdrawn. They were withdrawn because it was clear that the 2002 would require the 'entire circuit' to be protected ... pretty much destroying any market for these devices.
While the NEC backed off a little in the 2005 and 2008 editions, allowing for the use of the devices right next to the panel, the manufacturers are hesitant to tool-up again. IMO, their fears are justified, as each code cycle seeks to expand the role of AFCI's in our homes.
To parallel the AFCI drama, at least one breaker manufacturer is currently campaiging to require GFI protection at the panel, rather than at the device. ECN has had a thread on this topic.
Please note that the panel manufacturers' concerns about 'safety' have not extended so far as to allow the placing of "Brand X" breakers into "Brand Y" panels ... at least, not without undertaking a massive testing and certification program. Indeed, the recent emphasis on "series rating" can be seen as an attempt to require the exclusive use of one brand everywhere in a building.
UL simply isn't in any position to play referee in this matter. With their emphasis on "consensus" standards, it's all too easy for the process to be manipulated by the manufacturers. That, IMO, is at the root of why there are no true "AFCI testers" available.
At first glance, the 2011 edition appears to make the use of AFCI devices much more practical; that's why I hope we will see some such devices soon.
Now ... if only someone could explain to me why combining a $5 breaker with a $9 device results in a breaker that has to cost $35 .....
I think Reno is more on point with his classified breaker comment. As long as they only sell breakers and the breakers are only allowed to be used in their panels by abusing 110.3(B), they have an assured market in new load centers. The 2011 change assures this.
If I was an enterprising entrepreneur I would make a small panel, intended to be used as a sub that was listed with an aftermarket breaker. I suspect the problem is there is not enough profit in this to cover the cost to get it listed.
The AFCI device was also rejected in Canada as the intent for AFCI devices was to protect the concealed wiring in the walls and not necessarily the cord under the carpet where Grandma's rocking chair is located. I don't know that series rating rules always force a single manufacturer's breakers. The probably do where the lower rated breaker is within the higher fault zone. In a big building is is common for the distribution to use all the same manufacturers equipment especially if series rating is part of the design but by the time you are getting to the panels in the tenant spaces the fault levels are often well within the standard 10ka fault level for most modern breakers. That or the tenant space panel might have a series rated pane for a lower fault level still over 10 ka.
So say the service gear is in a 45 ka fault zone but the nearest suite panel is in a 18 ka fault zone. the main service could all be Schneider and the suite panel could be cutler hammer with a series rated main at 22 ka and 10 ka branch.
No series rating between the main service panels and the suite panels.
Now if coordination is required you really are needing the gear from 1 manufacturer and certainly are needing the more expensive breakers until you get enough impedance to get the fault levels below 10ka.
If you install an AFCI device rather than a circuit breaker, what will protect that portion of the wiring from the panel to the device? Remember, GFCI's protect people from electric shock. AFCI's protect the wiring and the structure from fire. Why protect only part of the infrastructure that could cause the fire?