TechHive: Finally, 3D printers are becoming more noob-friendly

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thumbnail Finally, 3D printers are becoming more noob-friendly
Jan 10th 2014, 14:13, by Leah Yamshon

LAS VEGAS—3D printing has slowly been on the rise for the past few years, but it has yet to have a major mainstream break though. It largely still only appeals to a niche audience of makers, and that's because it's intimidating. Machines require calibration and tinkering when they're first set up, and sometimes it takes days of tweaking before you can get a successful first print. Installing the correct software and adjusting the object files can be difficult, too. Sure, for hobbyists and printing enthusiasts, tweaking is part of the fun, but for beginners it's just too complicated.

The 3D Printing Tech Zone at CES was full of machines that are aiming to solve this problem. Many 3D printer designers arebuilding more straightforward machines for entry-level makers, and we're seeing this trend being implemented in many different ways. If the genre keeps moving in this direction, 2014 could be the year of the 3D printer.

Machines for every level

MakerBot's CEO Bre Pettis said it best during a CES press conference on Monday: "The question is not, 'are you going to buy [a 3D printer]?,' but 'which one are you going to get?'" Pettis unveiled a new line of MakerBot Replicators on Monday to appeal to people with different experiences and skill levels. My prediction is that it won't be the high-end $6499 Replicator Z18 that breaks boundaries, but instead the $1375 Replicator Mini.

replicator mini Image: MakerBot

This entry-level printer, which Pettis dubbed the "point-and-shoot" of the group, was designed with consumers in mind. It's compact and easy to use, and only has one button, showing off MakerBot's new one-touch printing solution. It's already optimized for speed and doesn't require any leveling, so it's pretty much good to go as soon as you open the box. And it has the power of the MakerBot name behind it.

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