Actually, several have been announced recently in the range of $300 - $500. I have been curious about comparative quality myself. The article I read (I couldn't find it, sorry) talked about how they were coalescing around standards which were driving down the price. If these guys want to sell me one for four times that amount I would have to see something that convinces me that it is worth it. Is it higher resolution or faster? Will it last longer? Is the build material cheaper?
One difference is that the cheaper ones tend to come out of China. This is somewhat ironic given that country's role as manufacturer for the world, but from what I have heard they are already adding 3D printing to their other manufacturing expertise.
I sooo want a 3D Printer. When I was in Norway last year giving the keynote at the FPGA Forum, I also gave a guest lecture at Oslo University and they showed me some of the stuff they were building with their 3D printers (I still shiver at the thought of thr robot spiders scuttling across the floor).
Recently I saw a do-it-yourself quad copter kit that involved you creating a lot of the parts yourself using a 3D printer.
I think that my main problem would be finding the time to (a) learn how to use it and (b) actually use it :-)
I agree that there is something fascinating about the 3D printing.
This seems to stem from two ideas: Printing as a quick and easy additive process and the possibility that a machine could "print" the pieces parts for its own assembly therefore creating the idea of machine replicatation.
Sounds like @Max has actually seen protoypes in action from a 3D printer. Anyone else see some? Could you imagine them being really useful? I think this may be one of those products where many of the future applications were not predicted by the manufacturer.
@JanineLove: Yeah it helps a lot in printing the mechanical parts while building the concept or even in prototyping. Definitely helps in shortening development cycle. I don't know about the cost involved in 3D printing but would certainly be much cheaper than the usual way of prototyping mechanical parts. It also helps in visualizing stuffs easier in 3D form placed in front of us than looking at the pictures on the slides or CAD models on the computer screen...isn't it?
@Janine, the prototyping industry has flourished for more than 20 years before it became cool to call stereolithography models (SLA's) as 3D printed parts! I have used them for more than 18 years now. The parts 'printed' do look very realistic. Now a days, you can buy pellets for many of the plastics in any color you want so it is hard to tell that from a final mass-produced part. But over time & depending on the material used, they do degrade. If they are mechanically functional parts (like plastic hinges, etc), they are good for a few rounds of show & tell.
We all see tremendous potential for 3D printers. I believe that the killer app will be one that enables a widget to be scanned and replicated by the 3D printer. When that becomes available, broken parts will be possible to replace again. [Did you ever try to find a replacement slider for a shower door? Scores of designs, none can be found.] I'm so tired of a penny part causing an expensive item to be unusable. For years I've also believed that a fair licensing process to enable production of replacement parts would benefit manufacturers (less inventory, royalties coming in from consumers) and consumers who would be able to restore items to working condition.
>> Being able to print out widgets and replacement parts etc. is great, but let's not forget the "holy grail" of 3D printing: printable electronics.
What will happen in this business will follow the typical laser printer evolution. You can use the cheap ones for your office operations but when you need scale like as we do in our company catalogues we look for printing companies. I am waiting for the price to crash to sub-$500
Yes, being able to easily go from a 3D scan of an object to a 3D printed copy of it just might be the killer app for consumers. I think we've all experienced the problem you described, where we only need a cheap part to repair a much more costly broken object, but the cheap part is unavailable. It would be worthwhile to many consumers to have a low-cost 3D printer just for that purpose -- fixing broken stuff around the house.