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NEW YORK (
TheStreet) -- When 3-D enabler
Shapeways debuted its first factory in New York last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg cut the ribbon with a pair of scissors freshly printed on a 3-D printer (shown in this
instagram photo posted by the mayor's office).
It's truly amazing to
peek into the future
-- and the present -- of the printing industry. Already, consumers can design objects using 3-D software and then upload the files at Web sites like Shapeways,
Cubify. The sites then print out designs and ship them to you. Or you can just go buy a sub-$2,000 3-D printer yourself and watch the magic as a machine melts the plastic "ink" and creates the object layer by layer.
And while you're getting used to that idea, there are already a number of 3-D printing prototypes and realities that were unfathomable just a few years ago. Here's a look at some of the amazing objects that can be printed with a 3-D printer.
Tissue: No, not the kind you blow your nose in but human tissue that could save your life. San Diego's
Organovo(ONVO) is making news with its NovoGen MMX Bioprinter, shown at
www.organovo.com, a special 3-D printer that prints functional, living human tissue layer by layer. It uses a person's own cells to produce veins or a heart patches so there is less chance of rejection.
Investing in 3-D Printing
NovoGen MMX Bioprinter
For now, the printers are being used by the company and researchers to print tissue. A recent article in
The Wall Street Journal speculated that this will lead to producing personalized body parts and implants on demand.
Drugs: Researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, used digital blueprints and a $2,000 3-D printer to print out drugs. The printer printed the lab equipment, which then "squirts the ingredients into the right places to make the desired compounds," according to an article in
New Scientist. Of course, you'll need access to the right ingredients, but lead chemist Lee Cronin suggested on
The Cronin Group Web site that consumers could eventually use the technology to make their own headache medicines.
Furniture: The massive
KamerMaker is a movable building with a built-in 3-D printer used to print very large objects of up to 2-meters long by 2-meters wide by 3.5 meters high. At this stage, KamerMaker is an experiment, but backers at
DUS, a Dutch architecture firm, says it can produce plastic furniture, temporary shelter and other on-demand architecture. If you happen to be in Amsterdam,
KamerMaker invites you to stop by and take a look at the KamerMaker in action.