Step 8: Results, applications, limitations, and possible variations.
Similar techniques are already used in the medical field, 3d models of bones and other organs can be acquired via CT or MRI scanning, and modifications are printed out in bio-compatible materials. Potentially in the future 3d prints may even be made using the patient's own cultured cells.
On a more prosaic level, these techniques could be used to repair or customise objects. Custom toys, hobby models, jewelery, cases for electronic devices, prosthetics, etc. The applications are limitless.
The main limitation of this technique is size. Larger 3d prints are exponentially more expensive than smaller prints, and shapeways currently prints at a maximum size of 25x38x20cm using the "full color sandstone" material.
A range of different effects may be achieved through variations on the technique that I describe in this tutorial. One potential example would be to create embossed text on practically any surface, as shown in the image above. For this tutorial I subtracted a 3d scan from a digital model, but it is also be possible to subtract a 3d model from itself, thereby creating a 3d print that can be tiled or tessellated. An example of this is shown in the second image above, I created a 3d printed hand that perfectly fits onto copies of itself, so once it's duplicated (in this case through a silicone mold) it may be tessellated into a sphere shape.
So, to conclude, these technologies open up a wide range of interesting and exciting creative effects that were not possible in the recent past, I'm very excited to see what other people are able to achieve with these techniques.