Are you ready to have your own replicator: a device that can create physical objects? It’s here in the form of a 3-D printer, but it’s not cheap and it’s semi-limited. Still, if you can design an object, you can have your printer build it!


Now that robots have their own app stores, it’s about time we humans gained some cool new tech. And if I had to pick it, I’d say it’s 3-D printing. Oh, don’t worry, Angry Birds: I’m looking forward to your eventual line of furniture with haptic feedback so I can feel every breaking of wood, ice and rock on my bottom. I just think 3-D printing is a little more useful.

Cubify is positioned to bring such a printer to the home market, although it’s not exactly cheap at $1,299. And if you do buy a Cube 3-D Printer, you won’t be complaining about overpriced inkjet cartridges any longer: Expect to shell out $50 for each colored cartridge for the printer. That may sound like a big price to pay, but the beauty of a 3-D printer is that you’re actually creating a physical, usable object.

Here’s a high-level explanation. Instead of printing a two-dimensional image using ink on paper, a 3-D printer “prints” thin layers of plastic. Each layer is printed on successive layers, building a physical object. In the case of the Cube 3-D printer, that object can be as big as 5.5-inches square.

That means if you can design an object in a format recognized by the 3-D printer, you can actually create it. Or you can design something, upload the plans and Cubify will print the object and send it to you for a fee.

Here’s a short video example from last month’s Consumer Electronics Show, demonstrating how the Cube 3-D Printer can print out a wearable iPod Nano wristband. (No, you can’t yet print a working iPod Nano.)

Once you understand the concept of 3-D printing, you can start to imagine the usefulness it can bring. Lost a key from your computer keyboard? Print one. Stripped a screw in a project? Print one. Broke the flag on your mailbox. Print … well, you get the idea.

It may not be cost-effective to replicate small physical objects yet, but as with most technology, expect the prices to drop for supplies and printers over time. And then get printing!

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