There's a new option for aspiring 3D print operators: Makerbot. It's not a service - but is in fact a new printer product emerging from the community. MakerBot leverages current knowledge, experiences, software and hardware to produce a truly inexpensive 3D printer: it's priced at only USD$750! Their first product is the Cupcake CNC printer - named so because that's about the size of its build chamber.
Founded by Bre Prettis, Zach Hoeken Smith and Adam Mayer, Makerbot's device is reminiscent of Fab@Home or RepRap as you can see in the videos here and here. Their goal is to "bring 3D printing to the masses" via open source hardware: "You will be able to download all the schematics and designs." Also: "in the MakerBot store you can buy all of the parts modularly to make other kinds of robots of your own design."
According to Prettis:
We made our robot to have a smaller than printer footprint on your desk. In the future that we envision, everyone will have one and if you make up a new amazing design for a fork, you can upload it to the thingiverse and share it with the world. Thingiverse.com is our website that we set up to make it easy for people to share their digital designs. Being able to use a MakerBot to make anything you can imagine is too awesome for it to avoid becoming mainstream. Who doesn't want a MakerBot to make whatever they can imagine?We think MakerBot is a tremendous innovation - it will bring 3D printing capability to a much larger audience, as the team has created a useful device at very low cost. Will it bring 3D printing to the masses? We suspect hobbyists are the target here, as the "put parts together" open source approach will be a bit scary to the general public. But a slick offering from MakerBot will bring in many more hobbyists into the 3D printing world. Perhaps entrepreneurial ventures can package up the inexpensive MakerBot tech in an easy-to-use way for a wider audience?
Great work, MakerBot guys!