MakerBot Replicator Prints Bigger, More Colorful Objects

Ker Than

LAS VEGAS – MakerBot this week announced the third generation of its consumer-friendly 3-D printing machine, called the Replicator.

Whereas the company’s previous 3-D printing machine, called the Thing-O-Matic, could make objects up to roughly the size of an apple, the Replicator has a print volume of more than 300 cubic inches and can crank out things that are about the size of a loaf of bread, explained MakerBot CEO and co-founder Bre Pettis.

"It's a big improvement in size," Pettis said from the showroom floor of CES 2012.

The Replicator features an LCD screen on the front that lets users monitor their builds. The base setup costs $1,749, but an extra $250 will fetch you the dual-extruder configuration, which allows the machine to print with two different colors or two different materials simultaneously.

The Replicator can print in ABS plastic (which is what Lego blocks are made of), or PLA, a biomaterial made from corn.

"That means that you can print things and when you're done with it, you can just put it in your compost pile," Pettis said.

Users can create their own 3-D designs using software such as Google SketchUp or download one of thousands of models for free from Thingiverse.com and load them into the Replicator using its built-in SD Card slot.

"Some of my favorite things [that users have made] are practical items like bottle openers and household items like bathtub plugs and shower curtain rings," Pettis said.

"And then there are the wild things. We started making some dollhouse stuff and the community has gone crazy and gotten inspired and done lots of stuff. So it's a mix of practical and really playful things."

This story was provided by TechNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.