Commercial 3D Printers not a distant dream

According to Gartner, through 2011, the number of 3-D printers in homes and businesses will grow 100-fold over 2006 levels. The technology lets users send a file of a 3-D design to a printer-like device that will carve the design out of a block of resin. A manufacturer can make scale models of new product designs without the expense of model makers. Or consumers can have models of the avatars they use online. Ultimately, manufacturers can consider making some components on demand without having an inventory of replacement parts. Printers priced less than $10,000 have been announced for 2008, opening up the personal and hobbyist markets.

The real thing
If you have $40,000, you can buy a Z Corp Z450 colour 3D printer, which is the real thing, straight out of Blade Runner. It lays down layers of starch-based powder, zaps it into shapes and paints them different colours. It takes a few hours to make impossible-looking plastic models.
Here there is an incredible video of the Z450 in action here at YouTube, and here is the company home page.

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