Soon everyone will have a 3D printer. It may not be this year, or next year, but within the next few years, people will have gravitated towards paying for designs, and then printing their goods. I know this idea sounds foreign if you’ve never heard of a 3D printer before (I wasn’t aware of it till yesterday), but the idea is that a printer can print 3D objects.

To perform a print, the machine reads the design from an .stl file and lays down successive layers of liquid, powder, paper or sheet material to build the model from a series of cross sections. Below is an example of what a 3d printer can produce.

A blue shell produced from 3d printer parts.

The quality and complexity of printer designs, however, as well as the quality of kit or finished products, varies greatly from project to project. This rapid development of open source 3D printers is gaining interest in many spheres as it enables hyper-customization and the use of public domain designs to fabricate open source appropriate technology through conduits such as Thingiverse and Cubify.

People create the designs! Think about it, the world will be filled with people like you and me spending time designing goods, uploading the design to a shopping area like Amazon, and people will purchase your design and print them out of their printers. If this doesn’t make you say Whoa!, your mind isn’t able to comprehend the potential capabilities of this. I almost want to spend a grand just to understand what stage we are at currently. I also believe an amazing aspect of this project is that our brightest minds on the planet will continue to work out the kinks of something so groundbreaking that this idea will come to fruition to the masses. This is a monumental challenge and when people want to overcome challenges, they do.

“One of the greatest things about 3D printing is that there are some limitations, but as with any engineering challenge these really inspire people to push past them,” says Pettis. “I’m just curious what the community will do together and what kind of problems we can solve.”

My feeling is that the quality of the parts these printers are producing at this stage are pretty crappy but that will evolve with time. How awesome will it be when you shatter your coffee mug on the ground, go to your computer, print a new one, and not blink an eye. A quick word though is that I watched a video where a printer printed a car wheel and it took 4 hours so that scenario isn’t exactly there yet. Nevertheless, this idea will revolutionize the way we shop and the customization of items we own. I’m pretty psyched for what’s to come.