A decade or two ago, the phrase "paperless office" was often heard, meaning that everything on paper could be delivered on your computer screen, so there'd be no need to create, read, and store flattened inky dead trees anymore.
It didn't quite work that way. Instead, according to Wikipedia, the amount of paper in offices doubled from 1980 to 2000. Computers made it easier to create and print documents, and it turned out that people just like paper.
When we can "print" 3D objects as easily as we can print documents, will the amount of stuff we own double? Will we find ourselves printing new, generic stuff and then throwing it away, only to print more the next day? Or will we print it, become attached to it, and try to store it forever?
How many of you have stuff that you are reluctant to throw away, but have not actually touched or used in more than a year? Would you throw it away (or better yet, recycle it) if you knew you could print out a new copy in 5 minutes or less if you ever needed it again? I can think of some kitchen gadgets that fit this category. And what about stuff you've bought and never ever used?
Of course, personal-use objects are only one application of advanced 3D printing. Large objects like jumbo jets may also be easier and cheaper to produce. But that's a subject for another blog post.