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It’s difficult to believe it was only a year ago that 3D printers became a common sight at CES. They are back again this year, with a whole range of startups and established firms flexing their maturing lineups of machines.
This is what 3D printing will look like in 2015.
Well-established players like MakerBot and 3D Systems aren’t likely to release any major updates to the flagship desktop machines they debuted last year at CES, but plenty of other companies are willing to fill that void.
Ultimaker, now three years old, expanded beyond its Ultimaker 2 with the Ultimaker 2 Go and Ultimaker 2 Extended. The $1,450 Go is smaller and lacks a heated bed. The $3,030 Extended is bigger, faster and capable of printing in finer detail. They have the same screen and touch wheel as the Ultimaker 2. I noted in November that the Ultimaker 2 is becoming a staple in office environments, so it’s exciting to see the company diversifying.
ROBO also came to CES with an expanded lineup. Its $799 R1 is now joined by the $1,500 R2 and $10,000 R MEGA, according to 3Dprint.com. The R2 builds on the R1’s features with additions like a second print nozzle, LCD screen and larger 10 x 10 x 10 inch build volume. The R MEGA’s $10,000 price isn’t a typo; the enormous machine has a 39 x 39 x 39 inch build area.
The HD-R by Airwolf isn’t quite that massive, but it’s still big for a desktop machine. It prints objects up to 11 x 8 x 12 inches in size and has add-ons like a camera and Wi-Fi connectivity. At $4,595, its price is also big.
The price leaders
ROBO‘s lineup also extends to the new R MINI, which will sell for $399. It prints a tiny 4.5 x 4.5 x 4.5 inch build volume. It sacrifices a few features like Wi-Fi and multiple nozzles to hit its price tag, but entry-level users just looking for a cheap machine probably won’t mind.
Taiwan’s XYZprinting seized on CES to keep spitting out new printers. The $349 da Vinci Junior isn’t actually that much cheaper than XYZprinting’s already low-priced da Vinci 1.0, but it looks a whole lot easier to manage. The 1.0 was enormous and unpolished. The Junior has more modern features like a quick-release print head. And it’s a lot smaller. Excellent.
It also put a price on its Nobel 1.0, a stereolithographic 3D printer. It will cost $1,499 and ship in the third quarter of 2015. $1,499 might not sound so low, but it is for this technology. SLA uses a laser to cure liquid plastic layer by layer. It has traditionally cost a lot more than the fused deposition modeling technique found in most desktop printers. In its typical style, XYZprinting is sprinting to market with its first SLA machine.
I don’t know about you, but all this talk about 3D printers is making me hungry. 3D Systems announced its latest food machine, a chocolate printer built during its partnership with Hershey’s. The CocoJet prints delicious, gooey chocolate layer by layer, just like in those Hershey’s 3D printing videos. It complements the sugar printers 3D Systems debuted last year (and still has yet to ship).
Oh, and there’s one more machine from XYZprinting. The company has been demoing its Food Printer for a few months now, and finally brought it stateside for CES. It prints unbaked cookie dough and chocolate decorations. It will cost around $500 and ship out in mid-2015.
3Dprint.com reported another interesting tidbit of news from ROBO: It plans to integrate Spectrom‘s full-color 3D printing technology into its printers, starting with the R1. Spectrom is an adapter invented by two University of Wisconsin students that allows most printers to make multicolored prints. It doesn’t print with multiple spools of different colors of plastic; instead, it actually blends colors to achieve a full spectrum. That’s pretty much unheard of in 3D printing, especially for a desktop machine.
If you’ve been aching to print yourself a new iPhone, your day has not come quite yet. But it’s on its way. Voxel8, which draws its founding team from Harvard, announced an interesting hybrid machine that prints both plastic and conductive ink — the materials necessary to print rudimentary electronic devices.
A developer version of the printer will begin shipping in late 2015. The $8,999 machine is a good-looking, desktop-sized printer with smart features like an auto-leveling print bed and touchscreen. Autodesk’s new Wire 3D software will power the design process.
That’s what we have seen so far, and it’s only Tuesday. I am personally excited for XYZprinting and Ultimaker’s smaller, cheaper machines and the coming wave of electronics printers. It’s also great to see Airwolf, ROBO and their peers continue to mature from humble beginnings.