This new family of 3D printers features an affordable “consumer 3D printer” that allows general users to print at the touch of a button and to print from mobile devices.
At the same time, MakerBot launched a digital store modelled on the iTunes idea, where printer users can download model blueprints as they would a song from iTunes.
The store was designed to simplify 3D printing for the general user, providing access to professionally created, guaranteed designs. It launched with six collections of models, many based on popular toys. Adult users can download models of historical aircraft or rocket ships.
MakerBot users can download individual models for as little as a dollar or sets for about ten dollars. Co-founder Bre Pettis said: “3D printing can be a bit daunting from the outside, so we’ve created all these 3D designs that you can buy individual models or as a collection – a bit like songs – and create fun for kids and adults alike.”
The aim of the digital store is to give MakerBot further insight into what consumers want in a 3D printer. “Our objective is simple. We’re going to learn by what people like, and do more of that,” added Pettis.
Though the mass-market Replicator Mini, available in the spring, has a more friendly cost of $1,375 than MakerBot´s industrial models, the price is still likely to give many consumers reason to pause. Nevertheless, it’s priced to introduce previously inaccessible technology into the home. The “prosumer” 3D printer in the new family, with more advanced features, has a $2,899 price tag, and the professional Replicator Z18, intended for industrial designers, will come out at a cost of $6,499.
MakerBot and the 3D printing industry as a whole have been working toward making more functional objects available to users. Creating layers of melted plastic according to specifications, 3D printers have recently been used to make parts: a 3D printed part has been used in a British fighter jet.
MakerBot also recently announced a partnership with SoftKinetic, a 3D vision company, to develop 3D scanning capabilities.