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A New Industrial Revolution: The Brave New World Of 3D Printing

So what exactly is 3D printing?


The term '3D printing' is actually a colloquial phrase for something called "additive manufacturing" -- a process of assembling products by sending a digital file to a machine that stacks layers of plastic, resins, ceramics, metal, or other materials on top of each other.

Futurist Thomas Frey, director of the DaVinci Institute in the U.S. state of Colorado, believes 3D printing will “affect virtually every aspect of society" and enable producers to cheaply and efficiently customize their products to meet the specific desires of individual consumers.

“If you can imagine yourself going into a clothing store in the next few years, the first thing that will happen is that they will scan your body and they will send that information to a machine that can print out the clothing that you want," he says. "So you can pick out whatever fashion you want, whatever colors you want, and they'll print it out right there on the spot. And it will not only be your clothing, but it will also be your shoes."

While the "gee whiz" factor of this emerging technology is certainly high, it could have far-reaching implications for the global economy.

Wohlers Associates predicts the additive manufacturing industry will be valued at $3.1 billion worldwide by 2016 and $5.2 billion by 2020.