3D printing not rocket science anymore

January 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
3D printing is a fast-growing hobby, even a home business, for many Americans. This week saw the arrival of the first ones that can print porcelain, and the first home multicolor printer.

"We believe that 3D printing will become one of the ways to create all objects," Clement Moreau said. "We will have 3D-printed objects inside our home, overall, inside of our cars, everywhere."

Moreau is the CEO of 3D printing service Sculpteo.

A 3D printer does not print with ink; it prints with plastic, building a tall vase, for example, layer by layer.

A 3D printer cost thousands of dollars just a year ago. Today, anyone can afford to print out a vase, or jewelry, or dolls, without owning a machine. You can have it done online. Now ordinary consumers around the world are making everything their own jewelry and action figures.

Moreau's company will send you a finished model of anything you can design in a computer and upload for roughly $50-$250 dollars. It will even help you sell your work online.

"We will take care of the logistics and the 3D printing, and we ship the product," Moreau said.

This week, Sculpteo announced for the first time glazed porcelain models, thanks to a new powdered ingredient.

And you don't need to be an artist. The company has hired world renowned designers to provide models that you can customize online -- say with the photo of a friend. And you can add your own touch -- literally. Because, yes, there's an app for that.

On the other hand, if you prefer to make your objects in your kitchen, Bre Pettis will sell you your own 3D printer for less than $1,700.

"If you have an idea for something," he said, "and you want to have it pop with great colors, and you want to make it really big, about the size of a loaf of bread, get a Replicator, print it out, make it, go big!"

His company MakerBot's new Replicator adds dual color extruders so that you can print multicolored objects for the first time. And bigger objects, with a push-button interface right on the front.

An entire 5-foot tall castle, every piece of furniture in it and every character on it, came out of a Replicator printer. So did this 4-foot rocket with astronauts.