Is 2013 the Year of the 3D Printer?

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Replicator 2 3D printer with plastic tractor printed on it

3D printers have been around for a little while. Instead of printing ink or toner on paper like a 2D printer, these devices print 3D objects by taking a computer file that describes a 3D object and print them by building them one thin layer at a time. Many printers print objects in plastic. But some even print in metals!

These printers used to be relegated to the use of R&D departments of companies who could afford $50,000 or more devices as large as a big refrigerator. Recently though, some small companies have been coming out with desktop 3D printers that are affordable to normal people. My first exposure to these kinds of printers (or any 3D printers at all) came from Make Magazine. They had an article about the Cupcake 3D printer kit from a company called MakerBot. Very cool stuff!

Me and a buddy of mine went to like the next MakerFaire in San Mateo and there were quite a few 3D printers around busily printing different objects. There were lots of people crowded around these things. I could see why! It was mesmerizing to see a device like this making an object from scratch.

Well my attention was brought back to 3D Printers with product announcements being made at CES this year. And folks, I broke down and bought a 3D printer! The Makerbot Replicator 2X! Let me say I ordered it. I do not have it yet. There is like an 8 week delay. I am looking forward to getting it though! I know, duh right? Oh, and this printer comes assembled. I don’t have to build a kit. Which for me is great! We’re planning on having a 3D printer party at my house a while after it arrives. We’ll see if that happens! 🙂

MakerBot is not the only one coming out with desktop 3D printers that people can afford. It should be very interesting what happens in this space!

And yes you can do more with this thing than just print out busts of Yoda and statues of owls! I’ve even seen such things as working shower heads! To get an idea of things one can print on a 3D printer check out Thingiverse!

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