Print your own Yoda at home for $499: 3D printers become affordable

Mbot ($999 to $1199)

China-based Mbot offers a personal 3D printer starting at $999 as well as a slightly larger (and more stylishly designed) transparent version for only $1199.

The Mbot is an FDM model that can print in two colors and uses ABS plastic.

Mcor Technologies rapid-prototype services

Mcor Technologies is another rapid-prototype service, but its full-color rendering technology uses plain ol’ printer paper as a medium. Each sheet of paper is sliced by a blade and sealed to the previous layer by a water-based adhesive. Ink is then added layer by layer to render full-color objects.

At present, the company does not offer a consumer desktop model. However, it has just inked a deal with Staples to allow users to upload designs and pick up the resulting products at a local Staples outlet. For now, the project is being tested in northern Europe, but it may expand beyond that.

Makerbot Replicator ($2200 to $2800)

Makerbot is one of the biggest names in 3D printing. The company used the expo to show off its stylishly designed Replicator and Replicator 2 models, which sell for $2200 and $2800, respectively.

The Replicator 2 utilizes PLA filaments, while the Replicator uses ABS.

Cubify Cube and CubeX ($1299 and $2499)

Cubify, one of the oldest names in 3D printing, now offers one of the most versatile models. The company's Cube and CubeX printers sell for $1299 and $2499, respectively, and can use both ABS and PLA plastics.

The CubeX is able to print in three colors and can render an object the size of a globe or basketball.

Solidoodle ($499 to $799)

Brooklyn’s Solidoodle has the most affordable model with a fully assembled printer available for only $499 for the Solidoodle 2. However, more advanced models run upwards of $799.

All sales are handled through the site and built to order with a lead time of four to eight weeks.

Makergear ($1475 to $1750)

Ohio’s Makergear offers a DIY approach to 3D printing and offers a fully assembled model for $1750 (or $1475 for a kit that you assemble yourself). The printer will work with either ABS or PLA plastics, but can render only with one color at a time.

The future is now-ish

Today, you can purchase a new desktop 3D printer for about the same cost as a high-end tablet or laptop (or even a midrange one in some cases). This may be the year we begin seeing 3D printers making their way onto desktops around the country.

As of now, the consumer 3D industry is too small for the Googles and Apples of the world to take notice. And that is exactly why it's so exciting. This is a brand-new industry with no breakout stars and no foregone conclusions.

The crown is there for the taking.

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