3-D printing and the replicator economy

August 2, 2011 | Source: Txchnologist

MakerBot's Thing-O-Matic retails for $2,500 (credit: MakerBot Industries)

3-D printing is being used to make tools and artworks, custom-fitted prosthetics for amputees, components for aviation and medical instruments, solid medical models of bones and organs based on MRI scans, paper-based photovoltaic cells, and the body panels for a lightweight hybrid automobile.

The beginnings of this technology may be making its way into your home within the next five years and sparking an industrial revolution in the process.

Modeling software companies such as Autodesk, 3-D printer makers such as Stratasys and MakerBot Industries, and the enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers who congregate as sites such as [email protected] have all jumped in to propel the movement.

As new 3-D printing methods become increasingly sophisticated, demand is rising to use them to manufacture finished products, not only in factories but also at a boutique, one-off level for individuals.