3-D printing takes the stage in Cologne

Cologne, Germany -- In what is certainly not the last presentation on three-dimensional printing technology and its uncertain role in the future of commerce, a German technologist explained why we will someday be producing goods in the living room.

The revolution in 3-D printing -- the process of making a three-dimensional solid object out of digital information -- is likely to develop slowly, he said, as efficiencies in design compound over time, making 3-D-printing machines easier to own and operate.

The topic was addressed at the Internationale Eisenwarenmesse (International Hardware Fair) here in Cologne, Germany, as part of a series of "Eisenforum" presentations, ranging from marketing to management. 

Currently in the realm of professional (and expensive) programmers, the revolution in 3-D printing has a long way to go before it becomes common, according to Michael Schubert of Munich-based 3-D-printing pioneer Produktredaktion. 

Still, Schubert offered his thoughts on what the end game might look like. A homeowner would probably not design a product from scratch, nor enter it into mass production. Rather, he or she might be able to improve upon an existing product by adding pieces or personalizing their products. He showed slides of examples, including a bird feeder and a customized power drill.

Schubert also suggested that 3-D printing might have a home in retail stores as a "shop within a shop" where consumers can benefit from the technology in a retail setting. 

As Apple invented a new culture for users with its iPhone and iPad, so too, one would expect a culture to develop around the possibilities of 3-D printing, he said.

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