Use this technique to heat thermoplastic in precise places and then fold it.
There’s this material called susceptor paper that’s got enough aluminum to heat up to 200 degrees in the microwave, but not enough to spark.
Kentaro Yuno has a paper (pdf) and a booth in the Making part of SIGGRAPH. He’s also got a microwave and some heat resistant gloves. He can quickly make 3D objects out of acrylic sheet, like bowls. But with a little engineering he can also laser cut and then fold a frame for a robot.
Laser cutting is generally faster than 3D printing, so being able to cut quickly and then fold quickly and have a 3D shape is awesome.
Since this works with thermoplastics in general, you can 3D print a part flat, wrap some suseptor paper around the right spots, then bend it into a new shape. This simple and safe step dramatically expands the applications for Fused Deposition printing because you can make the grain of the part work for you. Instead of printing a spindly, weak tower, just print a long flat part and bend it!
You can also repeat the process several times to create more dramatic compound bends.
If you’re at SIGGRAPH, check out his booth. If you’re on the internet, check out his site; there’s some other cool projects there. And if you know where I can get susceptor paper in SoCal, or how to order it online, that would be greaaat.