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3D Printing and the Replicator Economy 322

An anonymous reader writes "'Tea. Earl Grey. Hot,' is a command familiar to every Trek fan as representing everyday use of replicator technology. While its use on the show is simply sci-fi wizardry, the beginnings of that technology is now making it into homes, and could spark an industrial revolution. 'New 3D printing and other so-called additive manufacturing technologies are based on methods that industries developed over the past quarter century to rapidly create prototypes of mechanical parts for testing. But as these methods become increasingly sophisticated, demand is rising to use them to manufacture finished products, not only in factories but also at a boutique, one-off level for individuals. ... Already, 3D printing has been used to make tools and artworks, custom-fitted prosthetics for amputees, components for aviation and medical instruments, solid medical models of bones and organs based on MRI scans, paper-based photovoltaic cells, and the body panels for a lightweight hybrid automobile.'"

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