We have seen many examples over the years of impressive 3D printers capable of printing in a variety of materials; from the Makerbot to electron beam freeform fabrication for metal components to the concrete printer for medium scale structures. Today there are many online resources where 3D printing enthusiasts, artists, makers and students can acquire high quality 3D renderings of objects of all types. The Google 3D warehouse and Thingverse are two places where people from all around the world share their designs with others. Smartphone applications like Trimensional for the iPhone allow users to capture 3D images that can be rendered using a 3D printer. The object can be a face, a water bottle or any other form. As these technologies advance there is a fundamental question what will invariably arise with regard to intellectual property and copyright protection. If you can capture any form or shape and replicate it in the real world how do you legally protect design work against infringement? How will do it yourself mass customization impact consumer culture and what happens to consumer culture when individuals have the ability to replicate any object on their desktop at home?
Soon it will be possible to manufacture objects on your desktop thanks to advances in 3d printing technology. Imagine the ability to print three dimensional objects with moving parts on your desktop. The MakerBot makes this possible by printing objects using molten plastic or metal to build up the desired form layer by layer. Look around you, that picture frame, your iPhone case, plastic cups, bowls and plates all objects that can be printed using a 3d printer.