There have been lots of stories in the past year or so about cool things created with 3D printing technology, like this case for the world's most inexpensive computer Raspberry Pi, or this very cool guitar body. But aside from the way these printers seem to make something out of nothing, exactly how they work remains a bit of a mystery for many.
National Geographic has tackled the subject in a recent episode of the series "The Known Universe." Theoretical physicist and one of the show's co-hosts, David Kaplan, went in search of a way to help astronauts when they lose (or break) tools while working in space. In light of a real Star Trek replicator on board the shuttle, Kaplan finds out in this video why 3D printing could be the next best thing:
3D printing is really still in its infancy, at least in terms of how it can be best used. Various companies and individuals have floated other ideas for how 3D printing can be brought to the masses, whether it is through an application on the iPad or building your own 3D printer at home. There are also plans to make a 3D printer, the Maxifab, available to buy for under $1000, which is a bargain compared to many of the 3D printers currently available.
For more information on the 3D printing process, check out this explainer on the website How Stuff Works.