10 Ways 3-D Printing Could Change the World

Replacement Parts for Almost Anything
A staff member of Nihon Binary shows an Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene pylon (similar to a plastic traffic cone) which was printed by the 3-D printer MakerBot Replicator 2X during the International Robot Exhibition 2013 in Tokyo. © YUYA SHINO/Reuters/Corbis

Probably everyone has experienced the frustration of having to junk an old, long-dependable appliance that would work just fine, if only you could find replacement parts.

But that's likely to change, thanks to 3-D printing, which may enable you to simply download the plans for a replacement part and print it on your own printer. Already, 3-D printing site Thingiverse offers designs for printing close to 2,500 replacement parts for everything from manual car window cranks and dishwasher rollers to wristwatch parts and pinball flippers. It's not that much of a stretch to envision a future in which your trusty old gadgets could last as long as those 1950s automobiles in Havana that are kept running by mechanics' ingenuity.