While 3D printing may have started out as a niche hobby, it's starting to turn into a popular pastime for creative types and even mainstream users who simply like the novelty of printing out their own tchotchkes. The category still has a long way to go before 3D printers truly become commonplace, but moving in that direction, MakerBot is selling its Replicator Mini, a compact 3D printer with a $1,375 price tag.
That's expensive compared to traditional printers, but if you're serious about getting into 3D printing, it's one of the more affordable price tags around that isn't overly gimped or limited, and is actually the least expensive model MakerBot offers (other models range in price from $2,199 to $6,499). It's also a user-friendly unit, the company says.
"Reflecting on the future of our products, I imagine a lot of them will look like the MakerBot Replicator Mini," said Bre Pettis (PDF), CEO of MakerBot. "We’ve been working hard for years to make 3D printing easy; now, with the MakerBot Replicator Mini, it is easy. We view the MakerBot Replicator Mini as a versatile and tidy 3D printer that can fit almost anywhere – up at the Space Station, at an elite institution, or in a preschool."
The Replicator Mini is optimized for MakerBot PLA Filament, which is available in at least 17 "fun colors." It has an onboard camera, plug and play features, app and cloud enabled workflow, and Wi-Fi connectivity. In addition to making your own 3D creations, you can download ones that others have made -- there are hundreds of thousands of free, predesigned and ready-to-print models on Thingiverse.