If 3-D works the way it is supposed to, it will decentralize things - and that is always a good thing.
Cars today are designed with the help of computers and manufactured by robots - and the quality of cars today is about five times better than those made in the '60s (I can remember working on my used cars, which had points and condensers, when I was in college).
My last car, manufactured in 2000, had 488,000 miles on it before it became unrepairable unless I spent $2000 on it, which I declined to do. I once had a 1980 Datsun that gave up the ghost with a little more than 100,000 miles on it. That's a big difference in 20 years.
The time is coming - and soon - when guys are going to 3-D print a lot of the plastic parts for their cars in their garages.
What is this going to do to manufacturing? For all practical purposes, destroy it. When you can manufacture much of what you want with a $5000 3-D printer, that's the end of almost all manufacturing (I wouldn't be surprised if millions of jobs are lost - for that matter, manufacturing in the U.S. reached its employment peak in May, 1979).
There is a lot of hoopla about manufacturing jobs being outsourced, say to China. But if many things can be manufactured in garages...well, that's it for China (which I've been saying for years).
There are also a lot of upset government bureaucrats concerned about the 3-D printing of pistols. Good luck trying to stop that, although many firearms enthusiasts are still going to want name-brand high-quality pistols such as Sig Sauer and Colt. (I wonder how big their factories are and how many people they employ? I'd say very small and not many.)
About 15 years ago I encountered a man who had a complete machine shop in his back garage. That's how he made his living. I estimated the whole setup cost about $20,000. He told me, "I can manufacture just about everything - guns, car parts, you name it."
I suspect he's already bought a 3-D printer. I'd be surprised if he hasn't.
I do wonder about the stupid. What are they going to do for a living? Write software? Har. It's already got to the point where you have to have an IQ of 120 and above to get a high-paying job. If your IQ is 100 (which is "normal," which means half the people in the U.S. have IQs of 100 or less) then you're up a creek. Are these people going to be on welfare all their lives? Or work at minimum wage jobs, which is all they're capable of doing?
Those who believe people are blank slates and everyone can be educated equally are going to be in for a big surprise.
I suspect medical costs are going to collapse, too. I once picked up a prescription for a woman and I was told one prescription was $500. When they rechecked they told me, oops, we mean $2 because we forgot she had insurance. If you can 3-D print prescription drugs, what is that going to do to costs?
Will someday the combination of nanotechnology and 3-D be able to print organs? How long before we can manipulate molecules in a printer?
People may talk a lot about jobs being outsourced, but they really don't care. What they care about is buying high-quality goods as cheaply as possible.
How long before even the backward public schools buy 3-D printers and offer classes for their students? How long before the low-end printers cost $300 and and they become as common for kids as computers are now? (3-D printers, just like computers, are going to get cheaper and more powerful.)
I can remember when new computers cost $5000. Now they cost $300.
The man who came up with 3-D printing said it would mostly be used for sex toys, but people for hundreds of years have been saying new technology had no practical value. They have been wrong every time.
The government can't stop any of this. They can slow it down (which is what governments do) but they can't stop it.
Nobody can stop it. Science, which always turns into technology, can never be stopped.
The problem isn't the technology, which is always amoral - it can be used for good or bad. The problem, as always, is people.
As always, we are going to end up with science and technology rapidly advancing but human nature staying the same.
The United States is in the last stage before massive change - a far-flung empire and a financial economy, which have never lasted and never will. Other counties have gone through it and survived.
The U.S. government is now in now in crisis mode. Sooner or later I suspect it will just slowly fade away rather than just suddenly collapse. I am all for this. The country, however, will survive - and thank God for that.