Aw yeah, I remember my crappy Sony Mavica that did 320x480 to floppy disk. And my Epson MX-80 with Graftrax PLUS. And my TRS-80. Man... none of those technologies went anywhere.
I have color prints of Kerbals from Kerbal Space Program that Shapeways printed. They're in full color and I have no idea how they're done, but the color is really impressive.
I'd like to make some complex brackets but I don't have the CAD skills, and doing iterations at Shapeways is too slow and too expensive.
There some things that need to happen:
1. Printers need to be cheaper. Getting there.
2. We need color. It makes a huge difference for anything other than a pure structural part. I can't paint worth a damn.
3. We need metal. When we do make the structural parts, they need to last more than 20 minutes without snapping.
4. We need some way of making items other than drawing them from scratch in CAD. That's an artistic talent very very few people have. Current 3D digitizers need to get an order of magnitude better, and digitizing things is always going to run into IP issues.
There's one application right now that I'm surprised no one's captured:
You know all those blokes that make Airfix Spitfires? No? Because the kit's been discontinued? How about those guys that make motorcycle kits? No? Because too few people buy them to make motorcycle kits a thing? Imagine if you could print the kits. Most kits are flimsy monochrome plastic anyways. It'd be like e-books, a company'd never need to discontinue a kit because they no longer take up space in a warehouse. And if you could do them in color, you'd get the jackanapes like me that like models but can't paint.