2The MakerBot Replicator 2
The Replicator 2 ($2,199) is the second generation of desktop 3D printers from Brooklyn-based MakerBot. “We like to keep it simple, bold,” says CEO Bre Pettis. “We have a ‘you can have it in any color as long as it’s black’ kind of style,” Pettis grinned about the MakerBot lineup at a Sept. 20 event.
3MakerBot Digitizer 3D Scanner
On Sept. 20, MakerBot introduced the Digitizer, a $1,400 complement to its Replicators. In 12 minutes, the Digitizer can scan an object and create a digital model that a user can print or begin designing from. “The world would be so different if I’d had a 3D printer at age 10,” said Pettis, when asked about the impact of the technologies. “I would have gotten so much farther in life faster and learned to make things so much more quickly.”
4Microsoft Windows 8.1 Backs Desktop 3D Printing
Early this summer, Microsoft previewed Windows 8.1, the first operating system to feature built-in support for 3D printing. Microsoft has partnered with a number of companies, including MakerBot and 3D Systems, which makes the Cube, shown here. The printer, which comes in a choice of five colors, can be purchased at Staples for $1,299.99
5The Radiant Fabrication Lionhead Printer
On Sept. 3, Wisconsin-based Radiant Fabrication introduced the Lionhead, calling it the “first consumer-level 3D printer to incorporate printing and 3D scanning into a single device packaged with Radiant Li, an intuitive and powerful 3D modeling software.” A beta version, called the Lionhead Bunny, is priced at $1,649.
6Speed and Ease of Use
The Lionhead features four printheads, to speed up printing. Radiant’s primary message, though, is that its printer—whose software interface was inspired by the controls for videos games like Minecraft—should be very, very easy to use. It tested the Lionhead Beta with school kids and found that most could create digital models within five minutes. Here, a close-up of the Lionhead Bunny.
7The Formlabs Form 1
8Forget the Plastic Spools
The Form 1 uses stereolithography (SL) technology, which Formlabs says “approaches the highest resolution available in 3D printing” and blows away the performance of plastic extrusion printers, like MakerBot’s. DreamWorks animator Robert Vignone uses the Form 1 to create physical sculptures (shown here) of his digital designs.
9Starting From Liquid
Extrusion printers heat up a solid material, usually a plastic filament, and squirt it out of a tip (almost like a glue gun) to print. The Form 1 instead uses liquid resin, which the user pours into a tray. The printer works by pointing a high-precision laser at certain points, which solidify, while the build platform rises in time for the next solid layer to form.
10Form 1’s Stereolithography Technology
11The Shapeways Model
Shapeways hosts shops for more than 11,000 designers, whose Etsy-style stores are featured on the Shapeways Website. When an item is ordered from a store, Shapeways prints it, packages it and ships it. Pricing depends on the size of an object, not how detailed it is. Shapeways PR manager Elisa Richardson says it’s often less expensive to print something than to buy it in a traditional shop.
13Giving Rise to Small Businesses
Shapeways’ Richardson says the company has a lot of customers who have quit their jobs to focus full time on their Shapeways Shops. “They have no inventory, no stock, and they’re able to focus on designing,” she told eWEEK. Regarding how exposure to the technology has changed her thinking, she said, “Now, I literally rethink everything in my life.” (Here, iPhone cases from the Vibe Shapeways Shop.)
143D Printing Goes Mainstream
As large enterprises are discovering the benefits of desktop printers—Ford, for example, plans to put one on the desk of each of its engineers—consumers are also becoming familiar with the technology’s possibilities. In July, eBay introduced eBay Exact, an iPhone app that lets users choose and customize a product, which is then printed and shipped by one of three partners: MakerBot, Hot Pop Factory or Sculpteo.