Apr 262012
The Solidoodle - a $500 3D printer

The Solidoodle - a $500 3D printer

Say hello to the Solidoodle, your new $500 3D printer just waiting for you to take it home. 3D printers been around a few years, but now we’re beginning to see a significant fall in price. and down the road, less expensive models will follow:

3D printing at home is a hot segment, but it’s one that’s consistently been light on growth mostly due to the high costs. The MakerBot Replicator we covered during CES was a step in the right direction, cost-wise, but it’s still $2,000 or so. Well it turns out that the company’s COO, Samuel Cervantes, went off on his own and made the Solidoodle you see above. It’s a 3D printer that costs $500. All you need to do is add a computer and you’ll be off printing almost any object that comes to mind. That’s the kind of price point that could see this tech take off. It does its printing much like the MakerBot did: by melting some plastic and extruding a fine line which it then uses to build the object, layer upon layer.   (from Ohgizmo.com)

Of course, it’s likely that it will find a slower adoption rate than the Gold rush mentality that has characterized the smartphone market. Non-technical people will need to figure what one might do with such a device besides its novelty appeal. But you just know where this is heading: the cost will continue to drop, the features will get better, and once it becomes a relatively simple task to print out household objects (think kitchen utensils, cups and plates as starters), you know this will take off. Okay, it can pretty much print these types of objects now, but breaking into the consumer market will mean doing it with something other than plastic filament. If color was the main breakthrough for traditional printers, using a variety of materials in the same object will be the breakthrough moment for 3D printers.

But on many fronts, things are moving faster than you think – take a look at the opposite end of the 3D printer range from the consumer end Solidoodle to the KamerMaker project in the Netherlands. The KamerMaker doesn’t print objects – it’s a mobile pavilion that prints entire structures. Indeed, it could print smaller replicas of itself, a pavilion that makes little pavilions:

 The Amsterdam based KamerMaker is an initiative of DUS architects in collaboration with Ultimaker Ltd, Fablab Protospace, Open Coop, and a number of volunteer enthusiasts. The Kamermaker project is open source and all research data will be available online. 

And this is only the beginning. One can imagine something like a truck showing up one day at an empty lot and simply printing out a livable structure. Perhaps it starts with tool sheds and emergency structures for FEMA, but down the road this could go anywhere we let the technology take us.

Take a look a closer look at the Solidoodle, but I’m going to drop the video here for beta design of the KamerMaker: