Today, I came across Heather Clancy's article, "How Jim Kor is revolutionizing car design with 3D printing," in Greebiz.com. Aside from Kor's aspiration to create the world's greenest car, which he named Urbee (urban electric vehicle), is his breakthrough in using 3D technology to design the car. 3D printers are in the cusp of mainstreaming. To have the ability to do small scale manufacturing and make spare parts for household devices from a personal computer will change the landscape of how we purchase and repair equipment.
Questions have also been raised about how environmentally friendly 3-D printers are. And it appears to be a mixed bag. (for more info. see: "Is 3D printing an environmental win?" by Jeremy Faludi. Greenbiz). One company the is making headlines in 3-D printing is Germany-based, Twinkind which will take a photo of you (and your family including your dog if you'd like) and turn it into a small statue ranging from 6"-13 costing $300-$1,700) What's remarkable is the amazing accuracy of these life-like mini statues. (for more info. see: "For $300, You Can Buy a Stunning 3-D Printed Version of Yourself" by by Kyle VanHemmert, Wired).
Perhaps 3-D printing is the next "plastics" of this century. And though it's still in the very early stages, there's much design work involved in creating a cradle to cradle system, that (unlike plastics) does no harm to the planet. This will require bright minds to work on the types of materials for 3-D printers that can be up-cycled when they are no longer needed.