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Colorful faces

NEW YORK--For the last few years, 3D printing has been a technology on the rise. But even after 30 years, the tech hasn't had its day in the sun. Until now. This week, the industry's biggest players have converged on The Big Apple for one of the first-ever full-scale confabs about what is sometimes known as "additive manufacturing."

A packed house of more than 600 people showed up for the Inside 3D Printing event here, and heard talks and saw technology from companies like 3D Systems, MakerBot, Stratysys, and many others. And CNET was on hand to check it all out.

While many 3D printers use materials like various forms of plastics, and sometimes even metals, the Iris from Mcor prints on standard copy machine paper. Yet the machine's print-outs appear to be at least as sturdy as those from many of the company's competitors -- plus, they can be in color.

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Mcor Iris

This is the Mcor Iris, a 3D printer that uses standard copy machine paper, and which can print in color. It bonds paper together using water-based adhesives, and prints with water-based inks. It costs about $40,000, but the company said that for heavy users, it pays for itself quickly by obviating the purchase of expensive materials.

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Iris print head

The print head of Mcor's Iris 3D printer in action at the Inside 3D Printing expo in New York City on April 22, 2013.

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3D Printed guitar

The biggest company in the 3D printing industry is 3D Systems, which makes machines at all price points, from low four-figures to six figures. This guitar -- its body, at least -- was printed using 3D Systems' Cube consumer-grade 3D printer.

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CubeX Trio

3D Systems recently unveiled its CubeX Trio, a new consumer-grade 3D printer that costs $4,000 and can produce items as big as a basketball printed in three colors at once. The company also sells the CubeX Duo and the simpler CubeX, which print in two colors, and one color, respectively.

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Wall

Resembling a wall of liquor at a trendy bar, this is the 3D Systems wall at the Inside 3D Printing event in New York.

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Bre speaks

Perhaps the best-known company in the 3D printing industry is Brooklyn's MakerBot, which produces the Replicator series of 3D printers. Here, MakerBot founder Bre Pettis speaks to a throng of onlookers.

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Replicator 2

Two Replicator 2s sit on a wall in the MakerBot booth, one printing a small statuette. The fourth-generation machine costs $2,200 and is the company's biggest and most powerful ever.

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MakerBot printing

A Replicator 2 printing a small statuette at the Inside 3D Printing event in New York.

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Up Mini

This is 3D Printing Systems' Up Mini, a desktop 3D printer that can produce items of up to 1.7 liters in size. The company says that users can set up the machine in 15 minutes. It costs just over $1,000.

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Stratasys

This is a Stratasys Object260 Connex 3D printer. It can print as many as 120 different materials, including as many as 14 in a single part.

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Sratasys fighter

This figurine was printed using the Stratasys Object260 Connex, which can produce items using up to 120 different materials, including 14 in any given print job.

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Formlabs printer

The Form 1, a Kickstarter-funded 3D printer from Formlabs, drew a crowd at the Inside 3D Printing event in New York. The printer is said to produce high-resolution objects at low-end consumer-grade prices.

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Formlabs printouts

A look at several items printed on the Form 1 from Formlabs.

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Bolton Works scanner

This scanner from Bolton Works was designed to create a high-resolution 3D model of just about any item.

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Chicken for scanning

This chicken statue sits on the scanning platform, waiting to be scanned by the Bolton Works machine.

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The scan

A look at the 3D model created after the Bolton Works machine scanned the chicken statue.

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Sculpteo vase

A vase printed by Sculpteo, a company that lets users upload their own 3D models to be printed professionally.

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Sculpteo iPhone case

Sculpteo specializes in letting users design their own custom iPhone cases, like this one, which features two faces built into the design of the case.

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MakerGear printer

A 3D Printer from MakerGear's M-series.

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Solidoodle printer

Solidoodle makes 3D printers for as little as $500, including this one, which can produce items that are six inches by six inches by six inches. It also has three other models that go for $600, $700, and $800 respectively. The most expensive machine can produce items of up to eight inches cubed.

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