Maybe the most practical dream of a 3D-printing future is on-demand widgets. Missing Ikea pieces, just a button-press away. But what about instant tools, completely assembled and usable straight from the printer? That future's almost here.
You can't print a whole toolbox yet, but tinkerer AngryMonk has developed two plans -- one for a tape-measure, one for a dial caliper -- that print completely functional tools at your whim. No, these aren't one-piece devices, but the printer just makes the disparate pieces so that they're assembled from the start. It's pretty crazy.
There are some downsides, as you might expect. The tape measure starts out as accurate to within about one-sixteenth of an inch, but as you use it the connections between its rigid pieces get more slack, and the accuracy gets worse. The dial calipers aren't prefect either, but at least they don't get worse as you go.
You might not want to use any of these tools for super important work, and chances are that their traditional analogs are probably more readily accessible than 3D-printers for the time being. Not to mention a printer capable of this feat will run you roughly $US100,000 (!). But the promise of printing multi-piece machinery pre-assembled is ludicriously cool. And as 3D-printers get better, the products will only get more legit. [3D Print Board]