The name for the latest 3D printer from Makerbot is great: The Replicator; many marketers say a good product should do what it says on the tin, unfortunately though MakertBot’s Replicator doesn’t quite do that, at least not unless you also have a 3D scanner at home.
Therein lies the biggest problem with 3D printing becoming popular in homes: how do you actually get a file ready to print? Considering where 3D printing has come from this isn’t a massive problem; the previous barrier was of course cost but now home 3D printers are affordable for most families with an above average income and more importantly perhaps for many small and start up businesses.
3D handheld scanners are available separately of course though they themselves need to come down in price: wouldn’t it be great though if the replicator actually could scan and recreate an object all within the one unit? Definitely one for the future.
What Makerbot have provided customers though is ‘Thingiverse’ an online community with 15,000+ 3D plans that are ready to print; this is just one open source repository of 3D CAD designs online now though with Google’s 3D Warehouse being one of the largest.
Of course you are going to be limited even with these 3D models online, many are made by designers working in rapid prototyping services and are for unique and obscure parts for use in engineering and product design rather than finished models that you may want to use at home.