A regular printer puts ink on flat paper to create visual images and the computer or scanner tells the printer what to print. A 3-D printer works in a similar manner, but with some big differences. Here's what you need to know about 3-D printing and what it can do for you.

With 3D printing, the computer or scanner still tells the printer what to print. However the 3D printer uses plastic and other materials instead of ink. Instead of a flat image, the 3D printer produces layers of materials on top of one another. The materials are fused together during the process creating a 3-dimensional product that has height, width, and depth. The beauty of 3D printers is that they can create extremely complex designs. They have been used to create everything from skin that can be used for healing wounds to guns that shoot real bullets to jewelry. The cost of these printers has come down dramatically in the last two years and more and more applications are being developed quite rapidly.
Staples is currently selling 3-D printers in two of its flagship stores in New York and Los Angeles, with hopes of expanding that distribution. They currently cost about $1,500, but that price is expected to drop quickly as they become more and more popular.