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    The First 3D-Printing Museum Lets Visitors Snag a Hard Copy of Themselves in the Gift Shop

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    3D printing is now officially an important enough cultural institution in China that it's got its own museum. The DRC Industrial Design and Creative Industry Base (sort of Beijing's answer to a hackerspace, I guess) opened up last week, and it's looking to give Japan's 3D-printing photo booth a run for its money. Visitors can undergo a full-body scan and leave the museum with a tiny action hero figurine of themselves.

    The museum is pumped, or at least its PR team is: "Visitors will now be able to experience just what this amazing technology can create. Anyone curious about 3D printing should get themselves along where they can have their entire body scanned. Multi-dimensional data is then stored and processed which after several hours ends up as a physical mini life like sculpture for the mantelpiece." It's being touted as the world's first 3D-printing museum, but it's hard to say how much the DRC differs from a number of DIY maker spaces.

    The photo booth hard copies will probably prove the biggest draw, but the museum, which sounds like it mostly constitutes a number of 3D printers made available to the public, will have other exhibits on hand as well.

    China's People's Daily reports that "Apart from human figurines, the museum can also print out other items, including cans,rings, vases, shoes, dolls and iPhone holders."

    There's a hint of irony here, considering that the cheap plastic goods 3D printers are already so adept at churning out currently comprise a major segment of the nation's manufacturing base. If 3D printing scales up and costs come down, a significant chunk of China's economic base could be jeopardized. It's like the People's Daily itself points out at the end of its swooning report on the new museum:

    "It is widely believed that 3D printing technology will ring in the third Industrial Revolution."

    Perhaps China recognizes the possible sea change, and aims to be on the ground floor when the third wave hits. The central government, after all, just announced last month that it is investing heavily in 3D printing tech. Su Bo, the Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, announced that China will be investing in "locally-invented 3D-printing technology." And Sina News reports that China is going to "invest huge in 3D printing." China might just aim to dominate manufacturing a bit longer yet--and the museum may serve to introduce its tech-savvy citizenry to new possibilities in the sector. Then the good people of Communist China might, at long last, actually control the means of production.