Makerbot unveils next-gen 3D printer, opens first retail location

3D printing is moving closer to the mainstream.  Makerbot Industries, the Brooklyn startup that makes 3D home printers, is opening up its first retail location in downtown Manhattan.

At a Wednesday press conference, CEO Bre Pettis said that in describing Makerbots to those unfamiliar with 3D printing, he has to say, “You have to see it to believe it.”

“This is where you can go to see Makerbots in action,” he said.

The retail location will certainly help the company get its name out to a broader audience of consumers and elevate the 3D printing space in general. Today’s Wired cover story will no doubt boost its profile too.

On Wednesday, the company also unveiled its newest desktop 3D printer , the Replicator 2, as well as new software, called MakerWare, to help “drive” the Makerbots. It also announced an experimental version of its new printer, the Replicator2X, which targets 3D experts.

The new replicator, which costs $2,199, is the same size as the previous version, but has nearly three times the resolution of its predecessor (which means the final products are smoother) and it has more build volume, which gives operators more space to make multi-part projects and bigger models.

“We’ve set the standard in desktop 3D printers,” Pettis said. “We just didn’t compromise. We didn’t want designers and engineers to have anything that would hold them back.”

In a recent profile, Pettis told my colleague Ryan Kim that he hoped Makerbot products could help entrepreneurs build businesses on top of 3D printing and this evolution seems to move closer to that promise. In announcing the new printer, Pettis said he expects architects, designers and industrial engineers to “salivate” at the new device.

He also referenced one entrepreneur who is using a Makerbot printer to build prototypes for a sleep apnea diagnosis shirt so that he can move items to market faster.

Since launching in 2009, Makerbot has steadily gained traction in the 3D printing market. To date, the company has sold more than 13,000 Makerbot printers.

Disclosure: True Ventures is an investor in Makerbot and the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.