I assume we've all heard of 3D printing by now. In the wake of MakerBot, Reprap, Solidoodle, and so many others, many a mind have been illumintated by this new creative process. The way the current printers work, though, leaves creations somewhat coarse and weak; capable of making mostly novelties and only a handful of practical things.
This is about to change.
Next February, key patents on a different, better, 3D printing process will expire; setting the stage for a new round of consumer-level printers that can make useful, really cheap, everyday objects. The patents are for a method called Laser Sintering. Where current printers work by extruding a semi-melted filament (like a pastry decorator), laser sintering works by spreading layers of powder (plastic or metal) into place and using a laser to heat and fuse the powder into the created object(like the top of a creme brulee). The benefit of this process is that much stronger, finer, objects can be created; the layers won't be as distinct. And, what's more, the production cost of this process is potentially less than that of the current process MakerBot and others use. Really, it's not far-fetched to think that, say, if your mixing spoon, or bowl, or anything breaks, you can cheaply make your own replacement.
Here's a study that says a 3D printer could pay for itself, in replaced items, in less than a year.
Think about it.