The smallest 3D printer

Once every few years there’s a big technological innovation that causes a small hysteria on the market. First there were iPods, then there were touchscreen phones and 2014 brings the MakerBot Replicator Mini. I have a feeling that popular but still rather exclusivist 3D printing methods will go viral as soon as small and easy-to-use desktop printers become more and more present on the market. Oh, and cheaper, let’s not forget that.

The Replicator Mini does just that, it makes smart technology seem attractive and available to average people like me. Now I’m not entirely sure what I’d do with one (actually I’m pretty sure I’d use it to build myself a little filament-made army and try conquering the moon) but I wouldn’t mind finding it a place on my desk.

Now to make sure that I can accomplish my noble goal, MakerBot made the Mini as the most user-friendly 3D printer out there. With enough functions for professionals to make us of it, but still with a simple to use interface suitable to complete rookies; and I mean it when I say simple, the Mini has only one button. Even if you have no idea how to operate a 3D printer, MakerBot supplies you with a generous and ever-increasing range of apps in their digital store. Install the app on a tablet and you can choose from a nice list of designs without needing any special design skills. When I was nice I’m thinking mainly toys: rockets, dragons, trucks; don’t think you’ll be building F1 car parts from your bedroom just yet.

MB_DS_flyers

While we’re talking about versatility, the machine can be operated from your phone through a wireless connection. The commands are simple and when it runs out of material, the Smart Extruder (the thing that lays down the material) pauses so you don’t lose your work, and it lets you know through the app to get some more Pla filament on your way home. And because we live in the prime time of social media, the Replicator has a camera inside the workspace that helps you monitor the production process and gives you the opportunity to share your masterpiece with your friends.

With a given price of $1,375, it might not be the cheapest printer you can buy, but the commands are quite intuitive and the technology used is similar to its other fifth-generation professional MakerBots, the Mini’s big brother Replicator Desktop and the Z18. These industrial-strength printers offer more advanced options, but the technology involved is largely the same, so the consumer knows that he will get quality gear for a decent amount of money. Also, it’s quite a good way to learn how to operate 3D printers before you go to more professional machines.

The MakerBot Replicator Mini is one of those things that you probably don’t necessarily need to survive in this world but it would sure make your life a lot more fun. Think of all the money you’ll save on Christmas presents!

MakerBot-CES-2014

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