We recently talked about the Cubify Cube, a 3D printer for the home, which made an appearance at CES 2012 in Las Vegas. The Cube might be the most well-publicised but it is by no means the only 3D printer available for the home market. MakerBot Industries market the Thing-O-Matic and Replicator 3D printers for $1099 (£695) and $1749 (£1105) respectively. The Replicator is small enough to sit on a desktop and can print objects as large as a loaf of bread, including its own replacement parts. Users can share designs via Thingverse.com and even collaborate on the hardware, as the Replicator is completely open source. Competing with MakerBot are brands like RepRap and Shapercube, who are offering machines from about £600 to£1300.
3D printing is set to get even more affordable, though, with the arrival of the MakiBox A6 from Makible, which can be yours for $300 – that’s just £190! This means that you can now buy a 3D printer for home use for less than a mid-range colour laser printer. According to Jon Buford, Makible's co-founder, the A6 is simpler and more reliable than other 3D printers and is the first machine to be truly accessible to home users. Says Buford, 'After building a RepRap Prusa Mendel and using the Makerbot Thing-O-Matic, we realized that 3D printers are still too complicated, large, and unreliable for most technical hobbyists, much less the average consumer. In order for 3D printing to really take off, we've set out to build the most affordable, compact, and easy to use 3D printer yet!'
What makes the MakiBox A6 particularly appealing as a concept is not just the cost but the fact that it should be easy enough for most people to use, unlike some of its larger and more expensive competitors, 'The MakiBox is designed to be more simple and reliable than any other in this class. Instead of using complicated belts and pulleys, it uses simple drive screws, reducing the number of parts, the cost, and the assembly and maintenance time. We will pre-assemble the most difficult parts...'.
Whilst it's always tricky predicting the future, especially where technology is concerned, it looks like 3D printing is not just here to stay, it could be about to take off in a really big way. Will 3D printers become as common in the home as laser printers? We wouldn't like to say for sure but we certainly wouldn't bet against it.
What does the future hold for 3D printing? Will the 3D printer become as commonplace as the laser printer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
by Anthony Morgan