Thingiverse

Manufacturing 2.0: The rise of 3-D printers

May 23, 2011: 5:00 AM ET

Three-D printers are coming to a desktop near you. Should designers and factories be worried?

By Johnny Ryan, contributor

FORTUNE -- Three-dimensional printing is pretty wacky sounding. Imagine hitting "print" on your home computer and instantly manufacturing any number of plastic, titanium, clay, or silicone objects -- a pair of earrings, say, or a new toy for your kid.

Corporations already use 3-D printers to make product prototypes before embarking on mass manufacturing. Now a handful of technology companies, including HP (HPQ) and Google (GOOG), are looking for ways to bring 3-D printing to consumers and small businesses -- a trend that could have profound implications for manufacturing and design. Here's why: The blueprints or files for 3-D printing are digital and, as a result, can potentially be edited by anyone -- if the designer permits. More

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