MakerBot Replicator Mini aims to bring 3D printing to wider audience

Summary:A 3D printer is unveiled at CES aimed at making it simpler to build 3D models.

A 3D printer designed to make it easier to create 3D plastic objects will be released this year.

The MakerBot Replicator Mini printer, revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Monday, will allow users to print small 3D objects in a few steps.

Users can create or modify a digital 3D model using MakerBot PrintShop, a free tablet app, and send it wirelessly to the Replicator Mini printer to be built.

makerbot
The MakerBot Replicator Mini printer. Image: MakerBot

The Replicator Mini can print objects just under five inches high. The printer is available for $1,375 and will ship this spring.

Makerbot claims the Mini simplifies the 3D printing process so it requires less manual setup, and optimises the speed at which models are printed.

A network-connected camera inside the Replicator Mini captures images of the printing process, which can be shared via social networks.

Makerbot 3D printers build models by layering melted plastic and the thinner the layer the more detail can be reproduced in the printed model. However the quality of the finished model depends on many factors, including the quality of the base material, the mechanics of the 3D printer and the care taken in preparing the 3D computer model.

The Replicator Mini prints objects using 200 micron layers, double the thickness of layers produced by the larger $2,899 Makerbot Replicator desktop 3D printer, an updated version of which was also announced at CES.

MakerBot also revealed its biggest 3D printer to date, which can build objects 12 x 12 x 18-inches in size. At CES Makerbot CEO Bre Pettis reportedly showed a full-sized Star Wars Stormtrooper helmet that had been printed inside the machine.

The Z18 is available for $6,499 and will ship in spring this year.

Makerbot also unveiled a digital store that will sell 3D blueprints for models that can printed out, with prices ranging from 99 cents for a small toy to $9.99 for a collection of figurines.

Further reading on 3D printers

Topics: Hardware

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Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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