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10 Amazing Things 3-D Printers Can (or Could) Make

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, Ponoko and 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.

>>Also see: 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.

KamerMaker

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