There’s a new option for anyone who’s wanted to dabble in 3-D printing but didn’t know where to start. On Monday, MakerBot founder Bre Pettis unveiled a trio of 3-D printers, including a new device for beginners, at a news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The company has come a long way since it was founded in 2009. An entire commercial 3-D printing industry has spring up since then, and this year, 28 exhibitors are showing off their 3-D printer-related products on the CES show floor.
MakerBot, still the highest profile 3-D printer company, has one for each level of maker, from the complete novice to a serious professional. They include fun new features such as a built-in camera for monitoring progress from a mobile device and the ability to send files over WiFi.
Here’s a look at the three printers:
The small, adorable, one-button MakerBot Mini is aimed at the growing consumer 3-D printing market, but its $1,375 price point is still far above some entry level printers.
The Mini is designed to be easy to use for people who have no previous 3-D printing experience. Pettis compared it to a point-and-shoot camera. There’s a tablet app for making 3-D models and buying existing models for as little as 99 cents. After deciding what they want to print, a person can send the instructions to the printer over WiFi or USB and then hit the single button on the face of the printer to start the project.
A small camera in the printer streams to the mobile or desktop app so someone can monitor the status of a project while mixing a margarita in the next room. It can also upload shots of the finished products to a cloud library and share them on social networks.
The classic and popular MakerBot Replicator has been revamped again. The fifth-generation printer will sell for $2,899, and it will feature speed, quality and feature updates. It can print objects 11% larger than its predecessor. Behind the scenes are software and firmware upgrades.
On the front of the printer is a new 3.5-inch LCD screen you navigate with a giant stereo knob. The device can do a quick draft print or a super high-quality version.
The Replicator has gained some new communication skills. A phone, tablet or computer can send prints to the device over USB or ethernet, and soon devices will be able to communicate with the Replicator over WiFi.
Like the Mini, the Replicator will work with the new mobile app when it is released in the spring. It can also send notifications about PLA plastic levels and pause a print job when the levels are low so you don’t have to start over in the middle of a model.
It also has the same on-board camera that can snap shots of your final products to store in a library and to share on social sites or 3-D hub Thingverse. The device will start shipping in February.
MakerBot Replicator Z18
The final and largest new MakerBot 3D printer is the Replicator Z18. This $6,499 device is aimed at professionals who want to make large models and print at high volumes.
The Z18 can print multiple projects at once and, like the Replicator, has the small camera for monitoring and sharing and 3.5-inch LCD display. All three new printers have a new “Smart Extruder” piece that can be easily swapped out.