The future is now: 3D printing for everyone


3D printing isn’t just the latest craze, it’s a revolution many investors believe can only get better, cheaper and more useful. From casts for your broken arm to a model fetus of your first born (seriously), you can print just about anything.

Now with the new eBay EXACT app, you can place orders for customized accessories like rings, watches and phone covers. This is the first step to making 3D printing readily available to millions of people. Although there are a limited number of items you can customize and print from the app, eBay EXACT is the perfect place to find a gift for the person who has everything. Can you say personalized figurine? They may be a little expensive, but what bride wouldn’t want personalized cartoon-like figurines of her and the groom as a wedding gift?

Here, we compile the latest in 3D printing technology, what the future holds for it, what you can custom order now and where you can check it out in Chicago.

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Where to print in Chicago? If you’re too impatient to wait for eBay to ship you an item, or if you have your own designs, these two places in Chicago can help.

The 3D Printer Experience (316 N. Clark St.) has multiple printers and even offers classes on 3D printing. And if you’re looking for a special birthday present for your mum, you can even get your face 3D printed. If you’re still curious about 3D printing, check out a livestream from the shop.

Harold Washington Library Innovation Lab (400 S. State St.) Remember the days of walking to the library and printing pages from books for projects? Now you can print designs in 3D. Thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Harold Washington Library is now offering free printing (materials not included) and workshops through December.

(Images from,, YouTube and

What can 3D printers do now?
Yeah, 3D printing is pretty near, but what should you print? These guys thought outside the box and came up with these amazing designs.

  • Violin – It may not sound too pretty, but for the price of about $12, it’s pretty neat.
  • Prosthetic limbs for animals– This lucky duck got a second chance to waddle again with this 3D-printed foot.
  • Cast– Forget bulky plaster casts, now there’s a lighter and cleaner plastic option (sans the sweaty summer cast stank).
  • Fetus – Want to remember your pregnancy forever? You can if you visit this clinic in Japan that takes ultrasounds of your unborn child and turns it into life-long, tangible memories.
  • Houses– This house mock-up may look like a pile of bones, but it’s really a nylon-printed house inspired by the way bones form. In the future, Protohouse designers at Softkill Design say people will be able to print certain aspects of the design if they don’t want the whole house. So if your door breaks, you can just print a new one.
  • Clothing – This bird-inspired fashion show by Melinda Looi combines fashion and tech to create wings, headpieces and even shoes.
  • Music – Your audio files can now be transformed into a groovy record. The quality isn’t great, but some like it for it’s distorted sound that you can’t get with regular vinyl. Hopefully the quality will improve in time.
  • Pocket-sized sad Keanu Reeves – Take him to the movies or out to dinner. This sad Keanu can be your for just $25.
  • Deer head decor – Like the rustic feel of taxidermy, but don’t actually want the guilt of having to look into the sad dead black beady eyes of a dead deer? Shapeways has you covered with this geometric designed deer head.
  • Cookies – In case you get hungry, or just don’t like using cookie cutters, Professor Peter Raab and Ralf Holleis have created 3D printed Christmas Cookies. If printing cookies isn’t your style, make your own cookie cutter with OmNomNom Creator.

What comes next?
Will the idea of 3D printing fade with it’s high cost and slow printing time, or will we all be lining up to print designs at Kinkos? Dreambox may make the accessibility a little easier with its 3D printing vending machines. It’s almost as easy as putting in a dollar for a can of pop. All you have to do is upload your design online and send it to a vending machine near you. Dreambox will create your model and text you when it’s ready at one of its machines.

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