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Edible 3D-printed chocolates shown at #CES2014

3D printing all the rage at #CES2014

The darlings of this year's International CES [Consumer Electronics Show] in Las Vegas, 3D printers stand poised to be the next big thing in tech. Not 4K televisions. Honestly, even with Michael Bay's stamp of approval, we just don't see them flying off the shelves until their prices drop to reasonable levels and a full library of movies in ultra-high definition exists.

DON'T FORGET TO WATCH: First 3D food printer shown at #CES2014

Three-dimension printers are another story: They belong to a special group of hardware. Even in their infancy, they're already being described as the future of manufacturing. The comparison is warranted, too. How else would you describe machines that can make pretty much anything from digital scans or designs? Smartphone cases, custom-fit clothes, prosthetic limbs, life-like bobbleheads, and candies and chocolates (yes, food!) are just a few of the stuff that can be printed.

3D printers are the MacGyver equivalent of, well, printers. Interestingly, stereolithography or the technology that spurred 3D printing was founded in the mid-80s, around the same time that Angus MacGyver graced TV screens, but we digress.

Industrial-grade 3D printers have been around for years, but it's only now that commercial units and do-it-yourself projects are starting to gain some traction. It helps that there are plenty of sub-$500 options from Kickstarter startups and small companies. At CES 2014, XYZprinting announced the $499 (about P21,500) Da Vinci 3D printer. In the Philippines, CD-R King has a fused-filament printer for P100,000 that prints objects from ABS and PLA thermoplastics.

Of course, far pricier models that have more features and can create larger objects are also available. The MakerBot Replicator Z18 will cost $6,499 (about P280,000) when it hits the streets later this year and it can produce 12 x 12 x 18-inch objects. (By Alora Uy Guerrero)