We often hear the promise that advances in 3D printing will provide a new supply chain model, giving us access to products for which there is otherwise insufficient demand; that, amongst other things, this is set to revolutionise the spare parts market, allowing companies to provide parts for any item on-demand.

Unfortunately, although companies such as Shapeways offer comprehensive marketplaces for makers to sell their designs, these are flooded with novelty items (and gadget cases): items of which there is already a glut in traditional retail channels.

You can imagine my excitement then when I recently had an opportunity to purchase a vaguely practical 3D-printed item which would not have otherwise been available:

Having switched to all digital downloads, my Nintendo 3DS now has an empty cartridge slot: ideal for collecting dust and a perfect point of structural weakness. Thanks to 3D printing, it's possible to purchase a blank 3DS cartridge from Shapeways. I opted for the 'Black Strong & Flexible' material -- a matte textured plastic -- and an very pleased with the result.