(This entry was written in 2013. It will be updated in 2016.)
Scientists are attempting to use 3-D printing to create everything from architectural models to human organs. While the technology still lags behind the hype (in other words, we’re not getting Star Trek-style replicators anytime soon), we could be looking at a future when we can print personalized pharmaceuticals or home-printed guns and explosives. For now, 3-D printing is largely the realm of artists and designers, but we can easily envision a future where 3-D printers are affordable and patterns abound for products both benign and malicious, and that cut out the manufacturing sector completely.
While there has been a great deal of discussion about the ethics of printing weapons at home and the potential effects 3-D printing (specifically, bioprinting) will have on human enhancement, many of these developments are farther down the road. One of the most pressing concerns to the tech community is potential copyright infringements made by 3-D printers.
Patent and copyright issues:
Difference Engine: The PC all over again? (The Economist)
Printing potential weapons:
Weapons made with 3-D printers could test gun-control efforts (Washington Post)
A Battery and a “Bionic” Ear: a Hint of 3-D Printing’s Promise (MIT Technology Review)
Printing Evolves: An Inkjet for Living Tissue (Wall Street Journal)
Building Up Buttercup: 3D Printed Foot Helps Duck Walk (PC Magazine)
3D-Printed Ear Created in Lab (Live Science)
Other resources on 3-D printing:
Makerbot (info on purchasing 3-D printers)
Leading 3-D printer firms to merge in $403M deal (Wall Street Journal)
Don’t shun 3D printers – they might save your life one day (opinion piece from ScienceAlert)