The virtual world created by personal computing is becoming physical. This week, two new 3D personal printers were released by Brooklyn-based MakerBot, which also announced it will soon be opening a retail store in Manhattan.
The company described its Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer as its "easiest, fastest, and most affordable tool yet for making professional-quality models." It features 100-micron layer resolution, which MakerBot said can create professional-looking models and true-to-life replicas up to 410 cubic inches in volume.
'A New Standard'
CEO Bre Pettis said in a statement that the new, fourth-generation model "sets a new standard in resolution, build volume, and professional quality." The printer release was accompanied by a new software package, MakerWare, designed to enable faster and more consistent printing.
Next month, MakerBot will open its first retail location in the NoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. The store will feature ongoing demonstrations, as well as a variety of products made from the company's 3D printers, including a Marble Run contraption.
The Replicator 2 is designed for use with bioplastic PLA, which is popular as a build material because of its strength and its ability to make large models without cracking or warping. The company said Replicator 2 has a slicing engine that it is up to 20 times faster than previous models, and that it can build multiple objects at once. It's priced at $2,199.
Accompanying the release of the Replicator 2 is an experimental model, called the Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printer. It features experimental dual extrusion using the petroleum-based thermoplastic, MakerBot ABS filament, as well as an updated dual-extruder tool and heated build platform.
For 'Daredevils and Trailblazers'
Pettis said the experimental model, priced at $2,799, "enables the daredevils and trailblazers of 3D printing to explore the frontiers of multiple materials and colors."
The 3D printers are used for creating an increasingly wide variety of objects, including tools, toys, robot parts, components of machines, architectural models, and many others. MakerBot said there are more than 13,000 of its 3D printers in use by engineers, designers, researchers, and "people who just like to make things," and it said it has a 16 percent market share of all 3D printers, including industrial as well as personal ones.
We asked Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner, if 3D printing was becoming a real industry or if it was primarily for hobbyists. He said, that while hobbyists were among the customers, it is "definitely a real industry," and compared it to the very early days of computer-based printing on paper.
Ross Rubin, principle analyst for Reticle Research, said 3D printing is often used these days to create "quick prototypes for products that are then mass produced through more conventional means," as well as for the production of functional, one-off items such as toys or machine parts. He noted that higher-end ones can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Posted: 2012-09-21 @ 4:19am PT
Awesome! Exciting times.