At one time, brick-sized cellphones were cutting-edge technology, flaunted by rich Wall Street types — the only ones who could afford them. But over time, they were replaced by better things, culminating with the modern smartphone era that began with the iPhone, making the original dumb "brick" look downright dated. Well, it looks like the same thing might be happening to most existing 3-D printing technology.

Grab a random knowledgeable person off the street and ask them to tell you about 3-D printing, and if they know about it at all, they'll tell you that it’s going to change the 21st century and describe a machine that looks a little like the interior of an inkjet printer, building objects slowly from the bottom up from thin layer after thin layer of material.

This sounds very modern until you see the technology from Carbon3D, a new 3-D printing startup. Their main insight actually comes from the film "Terminator 2," in which the villain is a liquid metal killer robot that, when melted, can rise up again from a big puddle of liquid metal.

Carbon3D has been operating in stealth mode for two years, but that's over now, and what they have to show for their efforts looks impossibly cool. See for yourself:

They call this technology Continuous Liquid Interface Production technology (CLIP). Here it is again, building a small Eiffel tower in mere minutes:

The company claims that its CLIP technology is between 25 and 100 times faster than "traditional" 3-D printing, making complex objects in minutes rather than hours or days. (It's crazy that what was in the R&D lab not long ago is now called traditional.)

The liquid-printed things are also much smoother when looked at under a microscope than similar 3-D objects.

"We think that popular 3-D printing is actually misnamed — it's really just 2-D printing over and over again," Joseph DeSimone, a professor of chemistry at University of North Carolina and North Carolina State as well as one of Carbon3D's co-founders, told the Washington Post. "The strides in that area have mostly been driven by mechanical engineers figuring our how to make things layer by layer to precisely create an object. We're two chemists and a physicist, so we came in with a different perspective."

The way Carbon3D's technology works is by using UV light and oxygen to trigger or inhibit polymerization in a pool of resin (many types can be used to get different physical characteristics). If you have a scientific background and want more detail, the company has published a paper titled "Continuous liquid interface production of 3-D objects" in the journal Science.

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Michael Graham Richard ( @Michael_GR ) Michael writes for MNN and TreeHugger about science, space and technology and more.