From Bits To Atoms And Back-3D Printing

http://www.engineering.uiowa.edu/news/virtually-real.

Still far from the Star Trek replicator materializing objects and edibles at voice command 3-D printing is becoming more and more accessible to the individual.  There are 3-D shops materializing around the country giving access to self doers and professionals that can make anywhere from cups to machines.  “This online ‘universe of things’ consists in a repository of mostly open and free digital designs for physical objects, i.e, models that can be downloaded and then materialized using fabrication tools such as 3D printers…As of mid 2011, ‘Thingiverse’ contained over 8000 models ( contributed both by highly skilled designers and beginners, some of which are children and adolescents) and included a bit of everything from kitchenware, toys, and jewelry to machine parts, electronics, architectural models and eye glass frames.”  The technology has been mature  for quite some time but this democratization of manufacturing started around 2007 with a cultural trend towards Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement with high tech manufacturing capability.

You might find interesting these articles for further information:  The New York Times article 3D Printers May Eclipse Tradition for Designers by Alice Tawsthorn June 9, 2013 and The Rise of Personal Fabrication  by Catarina Mota