Think of it this way: You're at home, you want something, you print it. Today, that can be a chess set, some shoes, or a playable violin. Powered by 3D design software, the technology allows complex objects to be created in a single piece, layer by layer, bypassing traditional steps of design and production. But 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is moving well beyond making plastic objects, or even rapid industrial prototyping. "Today, 3D printers can not only handle materials ranging from titanium to human cartilage but also produce fully functional components, including complex mechanisms, batteries, transitions, and LEDs," according a 2014 McKinsey Quarterly report. It's having a transformative effect in medicine. The first houses are now being 3D printed. So are major parts of cars. And while many challenges remain -- the costs and variety of materials, constraints around high-volume production -- institutions such as governments and multinationals are investing billions of dollars in the technology that many argue could help power a third industrial revolution. Produced and edited by Sam Rega.
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