TODAY   |  March 28, 2013

Are 3-D printers coming to American homes?

3-D printing is a quickly developing tool that allows young innovators to create products that are usually the exclusive province of high-cost manufacturers. Glenn Derene, senior technology editor at Popular Mechanics, demonstrates the basics of 3-D printing to Matt Lauer and explains the potential benefits of having one at home.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now a remarkable tool, it can make anything that you can think of, basically. this is called the 3d printer as they become faster and a little cheaper, they may soon be in homes all across the country. the senior technology editor for popular mechanics . nice to see you.

>> good morning.

>> keep it simple . we've been watching it work all morning long. how does it work?

>> it essentially takes a plastic. this uses a corn-based plastic and melts it and spurts it out like a tiny ink jet printer and moves slowly up as it makes a 3d object.

>> does it take a picture of the object first? do you place that object in front? is it all computer programming .

>> anything you can design on the computer, this can print out in 3d. but there are, in fact, the makers of this are making a 3d scanner out later this year you can scan anything and make a copy of it.

>> we had a comb on a little while ago this printer made and my first thought is, okay, but you can go to a mass production facility and you can knock out a comb in five seconds. here it takes about 11 minutes . why would you choose to do it this way?

>> well, if you're making hundreds of thousands of combs, you would go mass production , but for me, i could redesign it on a computer and print out exactly a specialized one for me.

>> all right. so at the moment. these are fairly expensive right now. i think this printer cost about $1,000.

>> this one is around $2,200, but there are much cheaper ones. you can get them now as cheap as $500.

>> home applications here or simply something we're going to see in businesses around the country?

>> well, the dream here is that these things do make it into your home and become as cheap as a desk top printer is now and you buy a file and download a file and print things yourself. manufacture in your own home.

>> for example, this device here, if you look at this, that the electronics portion of this were produced elsewhere.

>> yes.

>> but the actual cylinder was produced on this machine or similar machine.

>> you can print the shell out yourself, stuff them inside and make your own device. that's a battery charging device.

>> it doesn't make t-shirts, but it did make this portion of this t-shirt here. tell me about it.

>> that's right. this is a sleep monitor, they make it for babies and adults with sleep apnea . it was manufactured by a small company outside of massachusetts and they can produce these things as necessary and then put the electronics inside.

>> these skulls, was that made with a 3d printer ?

>> yes, this was made with a 3d printer and it's from a cat scanner or mri, you can take a scan and print it out.

>> you can do this on a large scale. you can make big objects.

>> yeah, you can make objects as big as the printer itself. larger printer, print out.

>> as we look at some of the other items created, there's that comb again. there are some concerns. are there any downsides to this? any applications that might worry you?

>> well, if you can print out anything, you can print out anything.

>> for example, the components of a gun. people worry that you could then fabricate a gun that could make it through airport security . is it a real concern?

>> yes, you can do that because you're printing out parts, you can print out parts of anything. and how you feel about that depends on how you feel about guns in general. i'm not qualified to make a political statement. but, yes, it's technologically possible.

>> you mentioned the prices may come down on this, how long would that take?

>> well, these were introduced in the '80s and they were super expensive, they're $500 now, give it a couple years, they could be $100.

>> fascinating. thank you very much.