I hear it frequently when I speak about 3D Printing “Shaan I don’t have a 3D printer”, but they were not aware there are many printing services available locally and on the web. I think that is the business model 3D printing will be for awhile where the design shops and ultra hobbyists may have a 3D printer, but others designing in 3D can still pay for someone else to create the 3D print for them. I don’t think in the near future every home will have a 3D printer, but I believe they will all have access to one. We are starting to see companies like Staples dabbling in a local 3D print services but I want to see a day where the manufacturers of consumer goods provide free or a for a small fee replacement parts or custom modifications that you can purchase online and then pickup at your local FedEx Kinkos which are located about everywhere. That would save time, energy, warehousing, transportation costs and be better for the environment.
A good option is my friends like Duann at Shapeways.com that have some 25+ materials from plastics, ceramics, to metals they can 3D print in and also you can even market and sell your designs on their marketplace. There is also Ponoko, Scultpteo, i.materialize, and many more including if you are a member of 123D you can get 3D prints.
Soon I will have use of a real professional quality 3D printer the Mojo from Stratasys (acquired Objet). I am running to my door each time I hear a UPS truck drive by. Of course even with the Mojo I will still be limited in the number of materials unlike Shapeways and other 3D printing services which have several types of 3D printer types so if I want something other than a plastic I will use my Shapeways buddies.
3D Printing is growing exponentially in use and applications and now including printing living human tissue and organs like the recent announcement of Autodesk and Organovo.
So if you have 3D software from free like the 123D Design & Meshmixer to AutoCAD, 3ds Max, Revit, Maya, Inventor Fusion, Autodesk Inventor, and others chances are you can export a STL file to be printed by a 3D printer and have options to print it. Your not going to be printing your replacement liver or hear, but 3D print your creation in plastics, ceramic, metal, and glass prints are currently possible by everyone.
Happy 3D Printing!