Ideally, the concept of "on demand" shouldn't limit itself to pay-per-view movies. If 3D printers were widely available in every household, consumers could quickly "demand" and fabricate specialized food and other objects at the touch of a button. Scientists in the emerging field of "bioprinting" are even attempting to make it possible to "print" custom-made biological tissue from a patient's own cells.

According to Cornell University Professor Hod Lipson, 3D printers are reaching a "tipping point" where they will become affordable, accessible, and versatile enough to reach the average consumer.

This idea is certainly appealing — widespread availability of such technology (and an understanding of how to use it) would spark the rise of personal manufacturing and encourage innovation. But will it happen anytime soon?

The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.