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Washington Post Features

January 9, 2013

3-D printers could make your desk a factory



Eventually, 3-D printers are expected to make even more complex parts and machines, or be used in medicine for hip replacements and spinal reconstruction. That stands to revolutionize far more than home hobbies.

"Before, if you were a manufacturer and you wanted to make a product, you had to make 10,000 or 100,000 of them; you had to think in terms of the capital it costs to make that volume," said Bre Pettis, chief executive of MakerBot. "It takes hours. Now you can iterate on an idea many times in one day and create huge efficiencies."

And while once such automation primarily threatened to replace workers in repetitive assembly-line jobs, now these technologies are taking aim at higher-level jobs that had seemed suitable only for humans.

"A more productive society is good news, and it allows us to have greater variety and choices," said Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT's Center for Digital Business. "What concerns me are the labor-force consequences of such astonishing changes."

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