At last: a 3D printer for the home, priced at $500

The age of 'personal manufacturing' has truly arrived, with 3D printers now priced close to document printers.

The prices for 3D printers are plunging, and now they are priced in a range where they can be bought for home use. The age of "personal manufacturing" has truly arrived.

Until now, the most affordable 3D printers were as low as $1,200. Not bad-- considering 3D printers were running $8,000 and up just a year ago -- but still a bit pricey for everyday home use.

Now, the latest on the market is a 3D printer called Solidoodle, which retails for $499. The printer, which manufactures plastic items, includes a 6"x6"x6" build area.

Solidoodle is reportedly the brainchild of Samuel Cervantes, former COO of MakerBot, the leading low-end 3D printer company: "It does its printing much like the MakerBot did: by melting some plastic and extruding a fine line which it then uses to build the object, layer upon layer."

The printer accepts 3D files in STL format, which is the file format now supported by almost all 3D design packages. In addition, Solidoodle runs on open-source software that can be installed on any Windows, Mac, or Linux-compatible computer.

The barriers to entry for innovative new manufacturing concepts may now have fallen. Stay tuned.

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