They are considered to be the ultimate in technology, but for Kevin Campkin a 3D printer is just something to knock up in his shed.
The 48-year-old Taranaki man has spent the last three months designing, building and refining a 3D printer.
"I've been into this sort of stuff for years. I've always loved machines," he said.
Around the world 3D printing has been used to make a range of items, including toys, automotive parts, and designer shoes.
Scientists are beginning to use the technology to create 3D printed plastic skulls for patients, while researchers in China have been able to successfully print human organs using specialised 3D printers that use living cells.
Although Campkin has used his home machine to print a miniature skull, he's not looking at printing body parts any time soon.
"I'd love to print a skeleton though. The potential for this kind of technology is unlimited," he said.
The printing process starts by creating a digital 3D model of the object to be assembled in computer code. That data is then transferred to the machine, which melts plastic and builds the object one thin layer at a time.
The basic science behind 3D printing was developed during the late 1970s, with the first printer constructed in 1984.
The machines were not commercially viable until 2010 and can currently cost about $1500 to $5000 for a small home printer.
Campkin's fully functional machine, which he built from scratch, has cost him about $500.
Building machines isn't a new thing for Campkin.
Since he arrived in New Zealand from England in 2006 he's built a CNC glass cutting machine and a laser cutter.
Although he operates a CNC glass cutter by day, it's building machines and refining them that is Campkin's true passion.
With a background in computers, glass and a City and Guilds qualification in autoCAD drafting and design, Campkin intends to keep building machines for as long as he can.
His 3D printer isn't quite perfect yet, he said, but it's working well enough for him to print the parts he needs for the machine itself so he can make it state of the art.
"My friends have been pretty impressed and there's so much I want to do with it."
I've always been mechanically minded. It's machines and fishing for me, that's what I do in my spare time."
- © Fairfax NZ News