The promise of a 3D printer in every home is still far away from being realized, but the Micro on Kickstarter is taking a solid step in that direction. The printer's tagline calls it "the first truly consumer 3D printer."
The Micro is designed to minimize the fuss around going from a design to a printed product. It auto-levels and auto-calibrates. It comes with a custom M3D design software package that's described as being "as interactive and enjoyable as a game." The printer will also work with open-source software for more advanced users.
The printer itself is small, just over 7 inches tall. You won't use it to print a kayak, but you might use it to make a vase, build custom cookie cutters, or print out cat toys. Filament spools specially designed for the Micro cost $12 per spool and can be added onto pledges. It will also hold standard spools from other manufacturers.
Part of what makes the Micro so intriguing is the price tag. A $200 3D printer? Sign me up! That $199 early-bird pledge level is long gone, though. Backers showing up now to the Kickstarter page can get in with a $299 pledge. If that runs out, the next available level is $599.
The Micro topped its $50,000 funding goal in 11 minutes after launch. Currently, pledges total around $400,000 and rising. The demand is there. People want to 3D-print at home. We're in the thick a trend toward affordable, plug-and-play 3D printers geared for any skill level. Expect there to be more competitors in this area by the time the Micro actually arrives in late 2014 and early 2015.
If the Micro delivers on its promises and can keep the price tag down post-Kickstarter, people may even look back and see it as one of the milestones in bringing 3D printing to the masses.