It seems like the maker movement is having its moment. The New York Times recently reported a growing trend in 3D home printing and highlighted a few of the companies leading the charge.
The movement started gaining traction in 2011 on Kickstarter, when donors pledged more than $830,000 towards a goal of only $25,000 to allow Brook Drumm to create the Printrbot, which he touted as “A desktop 3D printer you can build in a couple hours.”
More recently MakerBot, the Brooklyn-based printer manufacturer, launched its Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer, claiming it’s “the easiest, fastest, and most affordable tool for making professional quality models.”
MakerBot also created Thingiverse, a lively online discussion area and gallery where designers and tech geeks meet, share insights and guide each other around the new technology as well as download models to print.
In a bid to further target the home market, MakerBot launched their Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner at SXSW this month.
The scanner opens the process up to a wider audience and makes it easier to create 3D printed items, as the user just scans an item to print it, rather than creating a complex CAD model.
Formlabs is the third company in the spotlight. They have the slickest website and their Form 1 printer looks the coolest of the lot. So cool in fact they raised $2,95 million on Kickstarter in 2012. The printer is due to ship soon.
Even the Wall Street Journal ran a slideshow of 3D printing applications the other day, highlighting some of the European and domestic 3D printers and services.
At this stage, I probably would not make the commitment involved in buying, and more importantly running, a home printer. But I’m dying to try one of the services that allow you to upload your 3D model and have it printed in range of materials from plastic to metal.
i.materialise is one of the leaders in the field. The Belgium-based company appears to be in the hip tradition of fashion designers Ann Demeulemeester and Dirk Bikkembergs. They have a great design gallery that allows the user to customize items and have them printed on their high quality industrial 3D printers. Some of the results featured in Paris Fashion Week are pretty stunning.