In theory, three-dimensional printing technology offers the prospect of a micro-factory in every home, allowing users to make small items and kids' toys from plans downloaded off the net. So far, the closest we've come to this is the stereolithography machines used by product designers for quick-fire prototyping, and at dollars 145,000 apiece these are strictly big boys' toys.
But the Z Corporation of Burlington, Massachussetts has brought DIY manufacture a step closer. Its Z402C is a 3D printer that achieves similar results for a mere dollars 67,000, and is small and quiet enough for office use.
Instead of the lasers and photosensitive polymers of stereolithography, Z Corp's machine sprays a water-based binder onto dirt-cheap powdered cornstarch to build up an object layer by layer. At present it's more suited to refining rough designs than producing finished items.
Fancy making Christmas decorations by the tree?