3D printers now cost less than a laptop – New affordable 3D Printers introduced this past April at the Inside 3D Printing Conference & Expo in New York City are now available for less than USD $1,000.
What exactly is 3D printing? It’s a process in which a printer builds layers of material to form three dimensional objects. (See blog on 3D Printing technology.) Reports have shown that adoption for 3D printing has grown impressively in the U.S. by about 29%, which is why 3D printing is projected to be the desktop scanner of the not-so-distant future. Despite more affordable prices, 3D printers are still not guaranteed to be user friendly – it can take hours to print objects as small as a coin. But, let’s take a look at some of the 3D printer models available to consumers today:
Founded in 2009, Makerbot is well-known in 3D printing and they recently revealed the Replicator and the Replicator 2 desktop models, both of which have stylish and impressive looks and priced at $2,200 and $2,800, respectively. While Replicator uses ABS plastic, the Replicator 2 utilizes PLA filaments, a renewable bio-plastic.
MakerBot has gained some notoriety when it donated two Replicator 2 printers to Robohand, which was looking to create custom-made prosthetic fingers. With the help of Replicator 2, Robohand was able to amply trim down the standard costs of prosthetic production from $10,000 per finger to $250. The design for prosthetic fingers is also featured on Thingiverse, MakerBot’s 3D digital design website where you find and upload customizable designs for everything from household goods to art sculpture.
Mcor Technologies offers 3D printers that simply uses plain printer paper and delivers in full color. Reams of paper are blade-cut, and then each layer is glued and stacked using a water-based adhesive, resulting in an object with a resolution of 0.1 mm. Ink is added to each layer in order to produce full-color objects. Mcor does not offer currently offer desktop 3D printers, but they have partnered with Staples to allow users to upload 3D designs to the Staples website and print them on Mcor printers. As of now, this service is only available in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Solidoodle is based in Brooklyn, NY and proudly offers one of the most affordable 3D printers at the low price of $499. The larger model is priced just as impressively at $799 and allows for prints of 8 X 8 X 8 inches. They also have an online sales and delivery system with a 4- to 8-week turnaround time. Solidoodle printers are also available at iMakrs of London, the largest store for 3D printers in the world.
On May 3, 2013, Staples announced plans to carry its first 3D printer, 3D Systems’ Cube. The Cube can print using 16 colors and form objects up to 5.5″ square. Targeting a wider spectrum of users, the Cube is scheduled to hit selected stores in June 2013, though the printer is available online and is priced at $1300.
New York-based BotObjects announced in early May 2013 what they are calling the world’s first full-color desktop 3D Printer. Named ProDesk3D, it uses a 5-color PLA (Polylactic acid) cartridge and the company is making a groundbreaking claim that users can print in a desired combination of colors. BotObjects have yet to reveal the price of the ProDesk3D, but experts estimate it will be close to $3,000.