There has been a burgeoning sense of excitement over the past few years about 3D printing. Printing an object as you would a document, albeit slowly, layer-by-layer, has been used to prototype products for awhile now, and 3D printing is entering the consumer marketplace quickly.
With the opening of MakerBot's new brick-and-mortar retail store in NYC, day-to-day use of 3D printing is starting to seem much more grounded in reality -- especially since you can own an actual desktop 3D printer for only a couple grand.
There are also promising applications of 3D Printing for medical treatment. 3D printing technology has already been used to make surgical models, prosthetic limbs, dentures, and hearing aids. Recently, researchers at companies like Organovo have had some sucess with printing actual functional human tissue for use in medical research and regenerative therapies.
We may only be a decade or so away from the ability to print actual human organs, which could possibly be made from cultures of a patient's own tissue. This would be wonderful, because if a patient's own cells can be used to make the replacement organ, it ought to really cut down on organ rejection, and hopefully also cut down on the need for expensive and debilitating anti-rejection drugs.
Type "Bioprinting" into the YouTube search box and you'll be amazed. Prepare to lose an hour or two of your day. Or simply take five minutes to check out a great quick explanation and graphical representation of the technological possibilities in this entertaining YouTube video.