My Granddad had a yard broom. Used to sweep up the fallen leaves with it every Fall, and the ash from his bonfire, after he shoveled away the winter snow, he'd sweep the path to his front door. Then, come the Spring it would be time to sweep up yet more leaves that had blown in and the frazzled flower heads dead-headed from his daffodils. Had it for seventy-odd years, man and boy. Only had to replace the head 14 times through the decades and the shank maybe four times...

Yes, I know...sorry old joke, extruded a little too long, but not quite a full-grown shaggy dog, thankfully.

It got me thinking though, about the next age of manufacturing, the next reduce, reuse, recycle phase of our purportedly post-industrial world. Are we soon to have a 3D printer in every home to print out from downloaded CAD files the components of tools, toys and utensils with which we work and play in the home and garden? It has been a long time coming if that is to be our future given that I remember talking about 3D printing when I was a young, wet behind the ears assistant editor in a publishing house back in the (very) late 1980s. This was long before the world-wide web an age before social media and even the advent of high turnover 24/7 news streams.

Around the same time, I also heard about how chemists might soon harvest the precious metals sloughed from catalytic converters from the sides of our roads using chelating agents and presumably a stiff broom and a bucket of solvent. And, from around that time it occurred to me, watching from the Cambridge Science Park progress on the conversion of the old landfill site north of Cambridge to a recycling centre, that we should really soon start "mining" the metals and plastics locked underground during the decades of old-school refuse collection and disposal, instead of leaving it buried to slowly, ever so slowly disintegrate; an untapped resource. And, we noticed driving past that same site recently that they do seem to be digging deep into the old landfill area, so maybe that is a reality now.

But, science and technology do move slowly and rightly so in many ways. It is "only" about a quarter of a century (give or take) but that is the usual turnaround time from bench to home, I suspect (consider the electric refrigerator, the television, the microwave oven, the mobile phone). Anyway, we must surely be close to that inexpensive and readily accessible 3D printer, the one that lets a childcarer print out a broken toy or design a coupling to bring together the very disparate worlds of Brio train sets and Duplo to meld the likes of Lego and Meccano. Perhaps there is even the possibility of printing out a replacement for the brass hook on the shaft of my Granddad's old is getting very worn after all these years.

David Bradley blogs at Sciencebase Science Blog and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the popular science book "Deceived Wisdom".