The term refers to the development of affordable technologies that enable the transfer of complex manufacturing process to the end user of a product. The most notable of these (or the ones that have received the most attention) are so-called 3D printers. 3D printers are able to construct a physical object on the basis of a computer generated model using a range of materials. But, these technologies may also include laser cutters that are able to “punch-out” a design from a piece of material (laser cutters are not yet considered a viable consumer item but there’s no reason not to assume that they will be in the future). The implications of these technologies will be significant because they have the potential to radically alter consumer behaviors and markets. Instead of manufacturing a surplus of objects that a producer hopes to sell, producers will simply provide the design in a computer format and consumers will manufacture them themselves. This raises numerous questions about the nature of work in the future, and insofar as education is expected to prepare the future labor force, for educators as well. Thingiverse by Markerbot is an example of a 3D printing community and market.
Visit an interactive version of the infographic at: http://www.thinglink.com/scene/380981783115595778