3-D printers, sometimes called rapid prototypers, already instantly manufacture products by squirting out material layer by layer. Now they're turning out items made of glass, sand and other substances beyond the usual plastic or resin.
The invention of plastics in the mid-1800s changed human civilization as profoundly as our earlier mastery of fire, bronze, and steel. Unfortunately, the environmental and health effects of plastic offer a significant downside to such a useful and affordable material. Now, scientists at the University of Tokyo, Japan, have developed a clay-based hydrogel that they hope will perform the same functions as plastic, but do so without endangering people or the planet.