Something interesting happens when the cost of tooling-up falls. There comes a point where your production runs are small enough that the economies of scale that justify container ships from China stop working.
3D Printing is unlikely to prove as satisfying to manual labor evangelists as an afternoon spent with a monkey wrench. But by bringing more and more people into the innovation process, 3D printers could usher in a new generation of builders and designers and tinkerers, just as Legos and erector sets turned previous generations into amateur engineers and architects.
Every 3D printer should seamlessly integrate a 3D scanner, even if it makes the device cost much more. The reason is simple: If you set the expectation that every device can both input and output 3D objects, you provide the necessary fundamentals for network effects to take off amongst creators. But no, these devices are not “3D fax machines”. What you’ve actually made, when you have an internet-connected device that can both send and receive 3D-printed objects, is a teleporter.
But my favourite piece of speculation on where this technology could take us comes from Russell Davies. He gave an excellent talk as part of the BBC’s Four Thought series in which he talks not so much about The Internet Of Things, but The Geocities Of Things. I like that.