Makerbot announces new 3D printers, including Mini and industrial strength models

The Brooklyn-based 3D printing company introduces new models, including the Makerbot Replicator Mini and Z18.

Bre Pettis at CES 2014 Josh Miller/CNET
Makerbot Chief Executive Bre Pettis unveiled something "epic" at the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday.

Like a showman, he removed a black covering to reveal a mammoth 3D printer. And it's for making big, epic things, he said. The CEO announced the Replicator Z18 for printing large objects -- up to 12 by 12 by 18 inches tall.

"If you've been hampered with how big you can make things, then no more," said Pettis. The industrial strength printer was one of three new models he unveiled today. The other two are a new Replicator "prosumer" machine, and a Replicator Mini.

The idea of the press conference was simple: try to make something for everyone.

"It's not, are you going to get a 3D printer, it's which Makerbot printer are you going to get?" he said.

Price-wise, the Mini is $1,399, the new Replicator is $2,899, and the big bot Z18 is $6,499. While the Mini is intended to be the entry-level machine, it's still on the pricier side at more than a grand. All three machines will tap into the Makerbot 3D printing platform. Pettis touted the Mini's one-touch printing capability, Wi-Fi connectivity, and camera. It also has a new "smart extruder" that snaps on to the device magnetically.

The company also announced a line of apps that includes a desktop app with MakerWare printing software, a direct integration with Makerbot's online sharing community, Thingiverse, and the ability for a user to organize his or her designs with a cloud library. Pettis also announced a Makerbot mobile app for iOS.

Some other announcements from the presentation: Pettis introduced the Makerbot digital store, a new retail front end where people can buy high-quality designs made by pros. For example, one collection is called Chunky Trucks, a set of toy construction vehicles and workers. He also announced a partnership with SoftKinetic, a 3D sensor company, though other details were scant.

For many, Makerbot has become the de facto steward of 3D printing, with an outspoken CEO and a slick flagship store in New York City. The company, founded in 2009 by Pettis, was acquired in June by Stratasys for $403 million. Pettis boasts that there are more than 44,000 Makerbots in the world. The company has a number of other projects going, including Robo-Hand, which allows for 3D printing of prosthetic for children.

Though the technology has been around for some time, 3D has had quite the coming out party recently. It stoked controversy when the world's first fully 3D printed gun was made last May. Other companies like Shapeways, a 3D printing marketplace, have gotten the attention of investors like Andreessen Horowitz, a prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm. And just like any good flag bearers for a nascent technology, Makerbot is leading the didactic push toward ubiquity -- recently announcing that it hopes to get 3D printers into every school.

 

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