How irritating is it when that annoyingly small part in the dishwasher is broken. Dishes pile up in the sink and it's going to take weeks to get a new part shipped from the supplier? Wouldn't it be nice to create that small part right from your own home and have it within hours?
3D printers may seem like a thing of the future but they are here now! Companies have been using them to create prototypes of their products, even shoes! You could have one of these fantastic little printers in your own home for as little as $1,000.
So how do they work? 3D printers build up layers of material in "slices" and they can make things out of many different materials including plastic, metal & nylon. The technical name for creating objects this way is "additive manufacture", although it sounds like more fun to create something by "3D printing it". The additive form of manufacturing is much more efficient than the traditional "subtractive" manufacturing, where pieces are cut from material to create forms, as it creates less waste material.
It sounds like so much fun and people are printing lots of weird and wonderful things. Recently scientists even created light-weight titanium horseshoes for a Melbourne racehorse. Before we know it, we could be printing all our own pens, staplers, desks and who knows what else for our office. If you can imagine it (and draw it using 3D imaging software) you can print it off and hold it in your hands!
Go and grab yourself one, and start printing!