3-D Printers Take a Step Toward the Mainstream
Come spring, you will be able to get a 3-D printer for just over $1,000.
That's not cheap enough for there to be one in every home, but it is definitely an indication that 3-D printers are becoming less relegated to design labs and research centers. And for those looking to launch a manufacturing business, it could mean having the ability to prototype your product from your dining room table.
3-D printers, which use a process called "additive manufacturing," create objects by laying one level of a material on top of another. The process allows the production of shapes that are not available to be manufactured in other varieties of manufacturing. Also, 3-D printing has allowed entrepreneurs speed up the development process. Entrepreneurs can develop a new product, generate a prototype, test it, alter it and generate another prototype very quickly -- a process that has been dubbed "rapid prototyping."
The compact 3-D printer unveiled by Brooklyn-based MakerBot is being pushed as "easy to use," and requiring "virtually no learning curve."
"We believe that the MakerBot 3D Ecosystem we are presenting to the world fulfills the vision of a 3D printer for everyone," said Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot, in a written statement. "We have laid the groundwork for everyone to be able to be a creative explorer."
The application for designing 3-D objects that comes with the 3-D MakerBot Replicator Mini is free and aims to be intuitive. Also, designs can be purchased for 99 cents each from the MakerBot digital store. Whether you have made your own design or downloaded a pre-made one from MakerBot, the printer can wirelessly receive the design signal and then prints at the touch of a button.
But MakerBot isn't about all things small. The company also announced on Monday one of the biggest consumer 3-D printers on the market, the Z18, which starts at $6,499.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.