Summary:

I’ve craved a 3-D printer for ages, but the superb MakerBot Replicator is out of my price range at $2,199. Maybe the Portabee is a better choice to get started printing small 3-D objects: It’s portable and costs $480 in an unassembled kit.

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While others are seeking the best Cyber Monday deals for fairly traditional products, I’m pining for something a little more futuristic that fits my geek lifestyle. I’ve long been interested in a 3-D printer but the MakerBot Replicator 2 — what I’d consider the gold standard for a home 3-D printer — isn’t on sale this holiday season. The Replicator’s $2,199 price tag is a bit too much for  me: I’m only looking to get started with some hands-on 3-D printing. That’s why the $480 Portabee portable model spotted by Geek.com grabbed my eye; not only is it less than a quarter of the price, it can be toted around in the included carrying case.

I have little doubt the higher price MakerBot is worth the price — it can print smoother objects due to higher resolution support — but I can’t yet justify two grand to kick the tires of this technology that prints 3-D objects using precise multiple layers of plastic. But I might be convinced to buy the Portabee, even though it can only print smaller objects and comes unassembled.

By putting the printer together myself, I suspect I’d learn a little bit more about the moving parts and how they all work together. And for a first printer, I’m fine with the limitation of small objects; the Portabee can print something up to 135 mm x 135 mm by 120 mm. Here’s a look at it in action:

What might I design and print? I really haven’t thought that far ahead. Off the top of my head, I’d consider building a kickstand that fits on the back of my Galaxy Note 2 for watching videos in landscape mode. I was considering the purchase a case for just such a scenario. It would be more fun to design and print my own. Maybe I’d print a small object to help with all of the cable clutter on my desktop. At this point, the sky’s the limit — within reason due to size constraints — and I have a blank page in front of me to print whatever objects my mind can envision.

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