John-Michael O’Sullivan charts the rise of 3D printing and finds that fashion is beginning to embrace its game-changing potential
The first time that I ever heard of 3D printing was the same time I first saw it in action; almost a decade ago, in a small factory deep in the English countryside. There, in the corner of a workshop filled with supersized machinery, lay a contraption that was not much bigger than a domestic computer printer. It whirred away quietly, doing something complicated with magnetic fields and dust particles. As I watched, those particles coalesced inside a clear tube – mysteriously, quietly, painfully slowly – to form an elegantly sculpted model of a table fork. At the time, it seemed like little more than an expensive sideshow gadget. I didn’t realise it then, but I was looking at the future.