3D printing is very interesting in my opinion, and it has led to the development of so many things that we see and use in our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not. The body of your electric car keys, your glasses case, and your cell phone were likely all prototyped through 3D printing. If you have any kind of gadgets lying around, they had to be prototyped somehow - likely through 3D printing in its product development stages. Just about everything that is mass manufactured involves a prototype of some kind, and 3D printing is one of the top choices for prototyping. I'm not claiming that every object in your house was 3D printed, but you'd be surprised. This technology has been around since the late 70's and early 80's, but unfortunately it is still somewhat underground.
When a product has been designed - prior to actually being manufactured on a large scale, it has to be prototyped somehow! How else are these companies going to test the product without blowing tens of thousands of dollars on a large order? Big corporations have been using this technology to develop products and concepts without your knowledge, but lately this form of manufacturing is becoming much more widespread.
As the average consumer begins to learn about this technology through various 3D printing services such as Kraftwurx or Shapeways, new ideas are becoming easier to spread. Although not free, this technology isn't incredibly expensive. The inner product developers are coming out of the average consumers in many situations. Perhaps you're a real estate agent who took 3D modeling courses in public school. Maybe you have a dream of coming out with your own product, or perhaps you just enjoy designing on the side. Through 3D printing, you can bring your ideas to life! This technology is for almost everyone; it isn't ridiculously expensive, and it is very available through various online services.
Aside from the services like Kraftwurx or Shapeways, some artists and designers are looking into getting their own 3D printers. The price range for home printers have been consistently dropping as well. 'Home desktop printers' typically ranged from $20,000 - $30,000, but now many are costing less than $1,500. There are even 2-3 of them that sell for under $1000! Most of these printers revolve around the melting of plastic filaments to create 3D printed products. Spools of plastic filaments can be purchased at around $50 a pound, which leads to a reasonable quantity of product development at the consumer level.
Yet again, this technology is here for almost anyone. 3D printing isn't free, but it is very available to the average consumer who is seeking to create. Through the declining prices in 3D printers as well as the availability of 3D printing service companies like Kraftwurx and Shapeways, this technology is more than available to anyone. Even if you work as a plumber, a consultant, or a real estate agent, you can still work as a product developer 'part time' if you really want to. 3D printing is available for everyone.