By Cecilia Rabess

3-D printing is the technological equivalent of Optimus Prime; it enables you to transform digital models into real, tangible objects, on demand. It’s not quite magic, but it’s close. From an obscure micro-manufacturing process to the star of its own multi-national conference and expo, 3-D printing is officially the Next Big Thing. I’d be surprised if this Micro printer, the fifth fastest Kickstarter project to reach $1M in funding, isn’t the blockbuster hit of the summer (the real Optimus Prime and Transformers 4 will have to settle for second.)

And the 3-D printing craze is only going to get crazier. A report published last year by McKinsey & Co. on disruptive technologies estimated that the annual global economic impact of 3-D printing will reach more than $500 billion in the next decade. To put that in perspective, a business only becomes a $500 billion one when whatever it's peddling is something people absolutely, positively can’t live without (see: groceries, mobile hardware, and illegal drugs.) Wikipedia notes that 3-D printing has applications in architecture, industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, biotech (human tissue replacement), fashion, footwear, jewelry, and food ... among other industries!

In other words 3-D printing will disrupt any and every major consumer manufacturing process you can think of. Last week Grace Choi made headlines following the introduction of her company Mink, which allows consumers to 3-D print any shade of makeup, any time, using a standard inkjet cartridge. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Can’t find an apartment in San Francisco? 3-D printing’s got you covered. Have a violent score to settle? Terrifyingly, 3-D printing can help. Or does your duck Buttercup just need a new foot Nailed it. People, the 3-D printer will even disrupt your penis.

Can’t find an apartment in San Francisco? 3-D printing’s got you covered. Have a violent score to settle? Terrifyingly, 3-D printing can help. People, the 3-D printer will even disrupt your penis.

As 3-D printing becomes ubiquitous expect the things we 3-D print to become even more interesting and bizarre. Because we already know what happens when you commercialize advanced technology, putting it into the hands of the masses: hijinks ensue.

So what’s weirder than a 3-D printed penis?

This tagline, from Bay Area based startup Twindom, pretty much says it all: “We want you to hold your memories closer by holding yourself.” Pop into any one of their convenient East or South Bay locations for a full body 3-D scan and walk away with a miniature 3-D printed powdered plaster replica of yourself. Who said megalomania was dead? You can also print your friends, family, hobbies, and though it’s not expressly stated on their website, I would guess a doppelganger of your secret obsession to replace that worn out hair doll is not out of the question.

Speaking of hair, researchers in Canadian university were able to recreate elaborate Egyptian mummy hairstyles using 3-D printing technologies. Being dead for 2,000 years sure works up an appetite! Thanks to NYU student Marko Manriquez you can print a tasty snack from south of the border using his BurritoBot 3-D printer. Desert with that burrito? 3-D print your face on a gummy bear or a piece of chocolate at FabCafe in Tokyo.

3-D printing is the new American dream: if you believe it, you can achieve it, with just a little bit of plastic and whole lot of imagination. Truly, the sky is the limit – although technically that’s not even true. You’ll be glad to know that the magic of multidimensional printing is no longer limited by the number of tangible dimensions in the observable universe: 4-D printing, it’s a thing now.

Photo from Twindom