While we named 3D printing one of our “100 Things to Watch in 2011,” some have argued it will be some time before we see prices conducive to the consumer market. But MakerBot, a company made up of former hackers and self-described nerds, has developed a prototype 3D printer that would sell for around $1,200, affordable for the home market. (Or, as CNN points out, the small business manufacturing market.)
The Thing-O-Matic, which MakerBot says can create any plastic object up to 4 x 4 x 6 inches in size, may well be the first step toward a world where people produce everyday items at home. The machine and its software are open source, so MakerBot’s community is encouraged to showcase what they create—mostly techy add-ons, gears and figurines, but also prototypes for useful basics (like buttons). And, as Forbes notes, after the initial investment, items can be made for just pennies apiece.
(One caveat: At this early stage, the Thing-O-Matic looks more like it was built in a garage out of spare parts than the latest must-have tech toy.) —Aaron Baar