Having a 3D printer for you home or business is a whole lot easier these days thanks to MakerBot. It’s still not exactly cheap, the tabletop 3D printer starts around $1,400. But that’s still within the realm of possibility, no more expensive than a fancy TV set.
MakerBot has three new 3D printers, the Replicator Mini which costs $1,375.
The Replicator, which retails for $2,899.
And the Replicator Z18 for $6,499.
3D printing uses a flexible plastic filament to “print” a variety of objects. Scientists have even used biological filament to “print” replacement cartilage for ears. If you have Windows 8.1, which has support for 3D printing built-in, you could buy one of these printers and then head home to start making your own stuff.
The MakerBot printers have a smart extruder that makes easier to switch out the kind of filament you’re using and that will also notify you when the filament is running low, just like an ink printer lets you know when the color cartridge is almost empty.
Although, like printer ink, filament is not cheap. A 1KG spool of 1.75 mm flexible filament runs $130. But the good news is that you can print a lot with one spool. On MakerBot’s blog they show an example of 392 chess pieces printed from one spool.
The tabletop Replicator mini will build objects that are roughly 4″x4″x5″ and really wowed them at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show. The more you spend, the larger the object you’ll be able to print. The MakerBot Z18 let’s you print items up to 18″ tall.
To use, you create an object in the Makerbot app or buy models from the Makerbot digital store. Users buy filaments in colors, much the way people purchase ink cartridges.
MakerBot shows off some of the objects users have created at the Thingverse. Among the items are bracelets and costume props.
You’ll also find household items like citrus juicers and vases.
There are also some incredible objects created by “super users.”
Now, home 3D printing is clearly still in its infancy. But when you think of the leaps and bounds home ink printing made in 20 years or so (remember dot matrix?), just imagine where 3D home printing will be in 2034. Can those replicators from Star Trek be far off?