Close to 10 years ago, I wrote a big article on 3D Printers for Action-Figure. They were just starting to be used for prototyping by big industry with machines that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. But prices were destined to fall and in the article I envisioned a future where you wouldn’t so much go out and buy an action figure or toy, but would buy the plans and print and construct your own. If I weren’t in the midst of packing, I would dig out the article and repost it, but needless to say it was probably the most popular article that year and drew a lot of comment. Maybe after I move, I’ll try and find it out?

I’ve never been very prophetic. I famously saw a very early version of the world wide web whilst at University and said “that will never catch on”. But on the matter of 3D printers it’s been very interesting to see things follow closely my original predictions, and a little bit weird as well (as if someone reached into my head and made my ideas real).
Take this for example: a set of construction pieces that are designed to connect between various construction sets such as LEGO or K’nex. The plans for the pieces can be downloaded under a creative commons license and made with your 3D Printer (the prices of which have fallen but have also seen many DIY build-your-own printer projects spring up).

The Free Universal Construction Kit from Adapterz on Vimeo.

OK, so the acronym brings a wry smile but I’m really glad to see projects like this pop up. We’re maybe still a few years from the construction of your own action figure (the technology to introduce colour into 3D models needs to be refined and come down in price) but we’re already in the era where my prediction of printing off a spare for a broken part on, for example, your washing machine is now technically possible. And that’s pretty awesome whether I predicted it or not.
Thanks to Richard Stagg for bringing this to my attention.