If you hate waiting for days to get an item that you bought on the Internet, here's some good news. Now you may be able to print the object yourself, at home.
Here’s how it works: You design an object, and then a 3-D printer applies small strands of plastic in thin layers until it’s built your product. These machines have been available for professional use for years, but have only recently become (relatively) affordable for personal use.
“It’s about as close as you can get to teleportation,” says Bre Pettis, the inventor of MakerBot, one of the most popular 3-D printers. “It’s like physical objects over the Internet.”
This technology has all sorts of applications. Enthusiasts are printing everything from toys to fashion items to - believe it or not - human organs.
“If you can dream it, you can think it, you can print it,” says Abraham Reichental, CEO and president of 3D Systems Corp. He likens the printing process to building a cake, one layer at a time.
"It really allows you to bring personal manufacturing to the home, to the garage entrepreneur," he says. "You don't have to do it someplace in China."
His company's “Cube” printer hits the market this month and will set you back $1,299. In a demo at CNN's studios, it printed everything from gloves to shoes to a miniature bust of CNN anchor Randi Kaye.
This technology also has medical applications. Dr. Anthony Atala at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is working on “printing” replacement tissues and organs. He starts by building a 3-D model of a patient’s organ. Then a printer uses cells and biomaterial to build it layer by layer.
The project is still experimental, but it offers exciting potential for patients. Click here to see what the 3-D models look like.