A revolution in home-scale production and manufacturing is beginning at the moment. Using open-source software and hardware slapped together out of scavenged parts, the first affordable 3D printers are now available for your garage, living room or basement.

Unlike commercial designs which can cost $10-20 000 used for creating prototypes for mass production runs, a Reprap or Makerbot can be built for a few hundred bucks, ordered as a kit, or even bought as a mini-unit (the RepStrap) which can build parts for a bigger model. And by connecting it to your computer, you can build virtually anything with it.

Instead of using ink, 3d printers heat a plastic wire, which lets them print 3d plastic objects, as well as a few other heads (such as one designed to frost cupcakes, and some preliminary work with bioplastics). And because they’re computer-driven, they can create much more precise models than normal power-tools. Most importantly, one of the central goals of these projects is already possible: printing 3D printers for your friends.

And that’s how we live without sweatshops.

Makerbot Industries

A short piece on ABC News about the Makerbot
A longer Google Tech Talk about the Makerbot.