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"People talk about this being a trillion-dollar industry some day," he says. "I talk more about the convergence of industries: media, medicine and manufacturing are all in the same plane and imploding at the same rate. Technology is driving them to come together. You can't talk to someone in medicine or optics without talking in the same way we talk about what we're doing here."
Manufacturers, surgeons, teachers, builders, scientists and designers are all looking at ways to use the ease of customization and quick turnaround inherent in 3-D printing to their benefit.
While people already in the workforce will have some re-skilling to do to familiarize themselves with computer-aided design software and 3-D printers, Catterlin says, young people will have the technology integrated into their lives as yet another tool on an ever-expanding digital continuum. He shares a story about his boss' seven-year-old year old son, who designed and printed custom clips for a bandolier to hold his Nerf darts. In Santa Cruz, the MakersFactory has kids who attend the adult classes and do quite well; as cofounder Chris Yonge says, "They don't know they can't do it."
When the methods of fabrication become available to everyone, this new brand of "makers" say, the potential for human creativity and innovation expands exponentially.
"We can say that in the future we'll all be able to print a new phone or kidney or something," says Weinberg, "but that's really just an extension of what we have today. We've learned with the internet that if you give people tools, they do weird and unexpected things with them. 3-D printing is just starting to break through to people who are not engineers or designers, and they're starting to use it in really unforeseen ways, making all kinds of interesting developments."
"Once people realize that the barriers are no longer there, they will start to become more adventurous," Yonge says. "People will realize you don't have to rely on a big store or paying a ridiculous price for something that doesn't really fit your needs. You can make it yourself."