I think it's the toy makers like Mattel that are the ones Chuck and others were mentioning who'd be nervous about 3D printing in the hands of the masses. Since those big manufacturers are doing huge volumes, it's unlikely they'd be interested in using this technology: it's not ideal (at least not yet) for turning out massive quantities of identical objects. We discussed this here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=262205
3D printing surfboards makes a lot of sense from the customization standpoint, although I don't know about the materials angle. Are the materials even close to standard, non-3D printed ones? And size--wow, that's big.
Quite a few, if memory serves me right. Han Solo, Princess Leia (of course) and Luke Skywalker for sure, but I think I also had C3P0 and R2D2. All the good guys...no one from the "dark side" for me. :)
Speaking of what can be printed with 3D printers...I just wrote a story yesterday about 3D-printed surfboards! It should be posted soon. As a surfer I found this to be pretty incredible, even though I am still a bit of a purist and think if a board is going to be custom-made, it's better to be hand crafted. But still it's yet another example of the size and scope of this technology and its possibilities.
There are also other manufacturing methods, such as injection molding and CNC milling, which may be more appropriate for a specific item, or a part of one item. In fact, the 3D-printed camera I wrote about here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=265687 employs some CNC cutting, and the Gadget Freak camera described here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1362&doc_id=266251 combined 3D printing with laser cutting. Engineers are already doing this. It's the companies they work for that may need to catch up to what's already happening.
I can see how that makes sense, Ann, that they would see it as competition, but it's a shame in a way. I guess it's the usual resistance that comes with having to completely overhaul everything to do it a new way, because this could become the way to manufacture in the future. I think bringing it inhouse is a much better plan to gradually transition rather than be completely resistant to the idea.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.