Templates can be downloaded from websites, so that in the same way you might browse Amazon for an e-book, or a movie rental service for a film, you can choose to search for 3D templates like ‘spoons’, then choose the design you want, and then hit ‘print’ with a flourish and watch the item build itself in front of your eyes.
As more users become more adept at using Cubify, more elaborate and niche designs will come out – so for instance if you lose the battery cover for your TV’s remote control, or for your mobile phone, search the website and the odds are someone has designed one for you.
Cubify’s social angle is one of the interesting off-shoots of the technology.
The company states: ‘We believe a new art form is emerging where all things in 3D will merge.
‘New tools, which enable digital creation, such as 3D scanning, 3D printing and countless others, are enabling future artists to express themselves in 3D like never before.
‘We call them Cubify Artists and Cubify is their playground to create, monetize and share their ideas with others.’
Users can create a free account, upload their designs, give them description and a selling price, and keep sixty per cent of the revenue, following a similar model to writers self-publishing on Amazon or musicians self-publishing to iTunes.
Items already uploaded include an iPhone case for $10, a seat-belt style clasp for $5, hairbrushes for $5, a pair of high-heel shoes for $, and light-switches for $15.
Virtual DIY: Clasps and light-switches are some of the first items available on Cubify
The printers work by building up tiny, millimetre-thick sheets of plastic according to the template.
In the labs, the technology is getting even better: The racing car below is just 0.028cm across – or to put it another way, about the size of the full stop at the end of this word.
While the domestic technology is currently limited to plastic items, when complex materials like wires and metals can be built, we could end up downloading many of the items we found in our house rather than making trips into town or waiting on the snail mail.
Cubify goes on sale in the U.S. on May 25th for $1,299, and can be shipped to Europe.