When a small part for Shapeways community member Mitagaki's Panasonic Bread maker broke he looked everywhere for a replacement part. The manufacturer no longer supported the model so what was a $5 replacement part became unobtainable and the $200 appliance was rendered worthless.
Rather than throwing the entire appliance away, Mitagaki 3D modeled a copy of the broken ceramic part and then 3D printed it in ceramics with Shapeways.
I can forsee a point in the near future where companies will, instead of carrying a huge inventory of replacement parts, simply direct customers to Internet locations like Shapeways where a replacement part can be ordered directly... Or offer the file for a customer to download and print on their home 3D Printer.
Great article, thank you! I am glad that soon there will be no need to buy whole new products again just because of missing or broke tiny parts, thanks to the (r)evolutionary emergence of 3D printing! My aunt, who works with ceramic art, will also love it!
I posted an article in my LEAPS Blog ( http://www.leapsblog.com ) about 3D Printing that you might like to check because it is relevant to this blog and website, and might spark your interest. Here it is:
3D Printing at Home is Here! The Next Trillion Dollar Industry: A Revolution in Industry, Commerce, Economy, Intellectual Property, Transportation, Technology, Ecology, Sustainability, Education, Medicine, Healthcare, Art, Architecture, Design, Fashion (etc.), and People’s Daily Lives >>> http://socialmediabar.com/3d-printing