Filtering the hype from the hope is tricky where 3D-printing is concerned. I first saw the technology up close nearly two decades ago, back when all its variants were still called additive manufacturing, and the uncertainties around the topic today hinge on more or less the same issues as they did back then. Plus the terminology is still a mess.
But I’m pretty sure that nobody I met at the time anticipated being able to buy the manufacturing kit from Amazon and have it delivered to your garage, where you could in theory proceed to make a working handgun if you wanted to. Hans Langer, founder of equipment-supplier EOS, has said that it might be another 30 years before we know what impact the technology was truly capable of having, good and bad; and he should know
I set about sorting out some of the claims made for 3D-printing as a large-scale industrial manufacturing process for the OSA’s magazine Optics & Photonics News.