Are 3D Printed Accessories Fashion's Next Big Thing?

Last weekend, I visit the MakerBot store in downtown NYC, a space that just opened last October. Never heard of Makerbot? Well, I don't blame you. Until my tech-savvy boyfriend introduced me to the company last month, I hadn't either.

The company, founded in Brooklyn in 2009, specializes in desktop 3D printing—a process that's tricky to describe if you've never witnessed it firsthand. These super-cool (and super-pricey) printers work by creating plastic or metal objects layer by layer, using a 3D design file as their guide. And while they're currently most often used to make architectural models and replicas of existing items—scan in multi-angle photos of yourself, and it can print a plastic bust created in your likeness, for instance—these amazing machines can make tons of other objects as well. There's talk of printing military weaponry and fully-functioning human organs soon—but for now, I'm all about 3D-printed accessories.

At MakerBot, where visitors are invited to grab freshly-printed stretchy bracelets right off the machines as souvenirs, I immediately spied a row of colorful men's-style wristwatches, as well as a 3D-printed "mixtape" that, once loaded with some good tunes via the included USB cable, would make a perfect gift.

Three-dimensional printing's even made it to the runways of NYFW. A few weeks back, Kimberly Ovitz paired her Fall 2013 designs with exoskeleton-inspired collar necklaces, ear cuffs, rings and bracelets—all of which had been 3D-printed with the help of Shapeways, another company specializing in the cutting-edge technique. Bonus: since printing an item on a single machine is far less time-consuming than having it produced piecemeal at numerous different factories, the jewelry's already available to purchase at Click through to shop some of Ovitz's sculptural baubles, plus other 3D-printed accessories from Shapeways' e-commerce site. What do you think of these high-tech extras? Totally weird—or kind of wonderful?

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