CES 2012: 3D printer makers’ rival visions of future

January 12, 2012 | Source: BBC News

The Replicator (credit: Makerbot Industries)

In the space of 20 minutes a plastic bottle opener has been constructed by the Replicator — a 3D printing machine capable of making objects up to the size of a loaf of bread. The device is made by the New York startup Makerbot Industries and was launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Objects can be created on a computer using free online software such as TinkerCAD or Google Sketchup, before being transferred to the Replicator on a SD memory card. Alternatively other people’s designs can be downloaded from Makerbot’s community website Thingiverse.

3D Systems, a North Carolina-based veteran of the business, is at CES to launch Cube, its first consumer-focused product (see also: 3D Systems to unveil Cubify.com 3D design software at CES).

The $1,299 device is smaller than Makerbot’s but looks more user-friendly, utilizing cartridges rather than spools of plastic thread. Like Makerbot, the firm also offers other people’s designs for download. But unlike its New York competitor, it offers creators the chance to sell their goods in an online store. Designers keep 60% of the proceeds.