There have been occasional articles already at this blog about individual design, which formerly has been categorized under Mass Customization. fabidoo, a service to create customized usb sticks, is an example and I wonder that this article already has been written in 2009. So the story has its history already, but is really heating up these days. How hot it is tells the story of Buccaneer, a 3d print device aiming to become the device for the masses. The project is financed by crowd funding on Kickstarter and it reached its limit within just 10 minutes according to this article written in german language.
This gives reason to report about the state of the art, some upcoming innovations and business models. To go a bit more into the details of the origin of 3d printing one may add that this technology comes out of the industry and is used for prototyping originally. Today and like a lot of other technologies it becomes available to consumers and like the example of Buccaneer tells it seems to be a market for it.
Lately a company called Dreambox installed real vending machines, where people are able to print out their desired objects. So 3d printing has become a reality to our lives. Usually plastic materials are used for printing and the process consists of putting multiple layers on each other. In the industry other materials are used as well. This shows some limitations to the state of the art of today, but as the market is hot innovations are coming up like the machine CNet reported about being able to handle liquid metal at room temperature: 3D-printing with liquid metal at room temperature.
A further future innovation may be the printing of food. This sounds a bit strange, but it is a technology already used in the industry again and especially for medicine. The idea is to cook the ideal meal regarding physical conditions of a person and if you got all your data with you, you may be able to get the ideal meal printed in a restaurant or otherwise by a food printer at home. Beside medicine such technologies are already used today to create chocolat (Again reported within a german written article: 3D-gedruckte Nahrung auf dem Vormarsch).
Regarding business models one may expect at least three different cases. These are 3d printers at home, vending machines as mentioned and probably shops similar to copy shops equipped with more comfortable devices and devices able to print out larger objects than it would be possible to do at home. Last but not least creating a good design is an issue, which may need more expertise than a common user can provide. Such designs may and are already provided by specialized portals like 3D Burrito. And this does not make a 3d printer needless as people equipped with such a device are able to get their desired object immediately instead of waiting for delivery. The latter shows the potential of this 3d printing trend being able to change the world again like the internet did formerly and is still doing.