So what exactly is 3D printing? The term is actually a colloquial phrase for something called "additive manufacturing" -- a process of assembling products by sending a digital file to a machine that stacks layers of plastic, resins, ceramics, metal, or other materials on top of each other.
Engineers and designers in the automotive and aerospace sectors have been using the process for decades to build prototypes. Many complex parts manufactured by 3D printing are now present on aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and satellites.
And in the medical industry, three-dimensional printing has also been used to make hip implants out of titanium and dental prosthetics out of ceramic material.
But, just as was the case in the computing industry a generation ago, 3D printing technology is advancing rapidly and its cost is falling dramatically. And this means something that was once restricted to a few elite industries is quickly becoming more widely available and affordable.
Some three-dimensional printers, for example, now sell for as little as $1,000.