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CES: MakerBot saves 3D printing

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MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis gave his version of the Steve Jobs treatment to his announcement of 3 new 3-D printers, or as they are called, replicators: the MakerBot Replicator Mini, an updated Replicator, now in its 5th generation, and rather large and spectacular Replicator Z18. You can see some of the images below so you can understand the relative size of the machines.

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The Z18 which has a build volume of 12x12x18 inches and a cost that approaches $7000 is squarely aimed at design professionals and small to medium sized businesses who formerly would have paid triple that amount or more for a 3D printer or replicator. That being said, look at how impressive the output is in the Samurai sculpture pictured below.

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The updated Replicator was also impressive with its increased build volume of 8x10x6 inches, 11% greater than the previous generation, and a little bit faster as well. Also, now part of the design is a camera that allows users to monitor their printing as well as sharing the product with friends through the usually social media. Pricing on this model starts at $2899 and will ship in a few weeks.

The most consumer friendly of the bunch and coming as early as this spring, the iPad Replicator Mini does much of what it’s bigger siblings can do but with a footprint (the space it takes up on your table) that is equal to most small appliances in your kitchen or sewing room. Like the Replicator and the Z18, you can connect to the machine via WiFi, USB stick, or USB and it also features the built-in camera for monitoring and social sharing. Weighing in at $1379, this replicator may give rival Cube 3-D printers some serious competition.

MakerBot is already being compared to Apple, and the influence definitely shows in CEO Bre Pettis’ presentation style as well as the strategy behind MakerBot machines. The reveals were grandiose and the energy, and enthusiasm in the room from the “Operators” is cult-like. His vision of a MakerBot community is fueled by the more than 218,000 designs available and downloaded from MakerBot’s Thingiverse sharing platform.

Challenges to the MakerBot maker-verse will need to come to table with a complete and robust ecosystem. Multi-function machines, like the one below, may starting nibbling away at the house that MakerBot built, but they’ll just print another one. Stay tuned.

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