A new era of "mass customization" is on the horizon, with 3D printers changing the way goods are produced.

There are a number of 3D printing research projects underway at MIT, helping the Institute push forward the boundaries of a technology it helped pioneer nearly two decades ago.

3D printing involves building up a shape gradually, one thin layer at a time. The device uses a ‘stage' (metal platform mounted on a piston) that is raised or lowered by a tiny increment at a time. A layer of powder is spread across this platform and then a print head deposits a binder liquid onto the powder, binding it together. Then, the platform is moved and another thin layer of powder is applied on top of the last, along with the next layer of binder.

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