Three predictions for 3D printing in 2014

Beyond the hobbyist market, finally

 

3D Printers will have a “Mac moment”

MakerBot's Replicator Mini. A smaller countertop version of its technology could help 3D printing finally gain a foothold in the home. (MakerBot)

MakerBot’s Replicator Mini. A smaller countertop version of its technology could help 3D printing finally gain a foothold in the home. (MakerBot)

The MakerBot Replicator Mini, unveiled at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, could do for 3-D printing what the original Apple Macintosh did for home computing in 1984. It could, in other words, take a product used up until now mostly by serious professionals or committed hobbyists and make it mainstream.

The Mini, slightly larger than a countertop bread maker, will be available to consumers this spring for a still pricy but no longer prohibitive US$1,375. More important, it will come with most of the same internal technology as the latest full-sized Replicators, which means the first true wave of casual 3-D printing fans won’t be stuck with inferior gear.

3-d printers will get their first true app store

A line of 3D-printable toys available in the MakerBot Digital Store. Professional designs will help 3D printing expand beyond the hobbyist market. (MakerBot)

A line of 3D-printable toys available in the MakerBot Digital Store. Professional designs will help 3D printing expand beyond the hobbyist market. (MakerBot)

Owning a 3-D printer isn’t much fun if you don’t have anything to make with it. That’s why MakerBot is opening a digital store with low-cost, professionally designed 3-D schematics for, at the moment, mostly toys, including rocket ships, dragons and trucks. That means the family that buys a Replicator Mini this spring could be printing its Christmas presents by next winter.

You’ll eat a 3-d printed wedding cake

Geometric sugar cubes made by 3D Systems. The company's "ChefJet" line will make complex confectionery possible for ambitious restaurants. (3D Systems)

Geometric sugar cubes made by 3D Systems. The company’s “ChefJet” line will make complex confectionery possible for ambitious restaurants. (3D Systems)

3D Systems unveiled its new ChefJet series, also at CES, in January. The larger model, the ChefJet Pro 3D, will allow professional chefs—at nearly US$10,000, this isn’t a machine for the home kitchen—to print elaborate, edible sugar creations in full colour. For now, that probably means cooler, more durable and intricate wedding cakes—for those with a lot of money to burn.

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