I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to science and science fiction. My favorite TV show is Star Trek: The Next Generation. Often times science fiction can give us a glimpse into the future. What is fiction today might be the scientific innovations of tomorrow. Take for example the Star Trek replicator. A replicator can create any inanimate object, as long as the desired molecular structure is on file. Just tell the computer what you want and the replicator will make a copy for you.
The Star Trek replicator was all I could think of when I recently read a story about the Makerbot Thing-o-matic. A Thing-o-matic is basically a printer, but rather than printing with ink, the Thing-o-matic prints with melted plastic. The plastic is printed in layers, which allows the user to make 3D objects. A person can design just about anything using 3D software, feed the design into the printer and print out a copy. Once a design is created, it can be shared via the internet and someone on the other side of the planet can print out the object. This could eventually eliminate stores and shipping. You just order a file online and print out your thingy. It would be like having your own little factory.
Makerbot Industries has sold 2,600 of these printers and has an active online community that shares their designs via Thingiverse. I have a feeling that this could be the beginning of something BIG.