3D Printer Breaks $500 Price Point

If you are like me, you have been watching the 3D printer space with much enthusiasm in anticipation of the moment when consumer-friendly 3D printers make their way to market at a price Joe Public can truly afford.

There has definitely been some traction in achieving that goal. Makerbot, the best-known maker of 3D printers for enthusiasts, has been steadily releasing models that raise the functionality and appeal more to the mainstream. And we recently reported on 3D Systems putting its stake in the ground with the Cube, its $1,299 consumer 3D printer offering.

Now there's a new kid on the consumer 3D printer block: Solidoodle, founded by Sam Cervantes, a former aerospace engineer who served a stint at MakerBot. His startup has just released its self-named printer, with a base price of $499.

The second version of the pre-assembled printer has been refined to offer a bigger build area (six inches cubed, where the original model sported four inches cubed), and it weighs just 17 pounds. The technology, according to specs on the Website, is Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) -- another way of saying Thermoplastic Extrusion -- and it uses a 1.75mm plastic filament (ABS recommended), which costs $45 for a two-pound spool.

Solidoodle is based on the RepRap Sanguinololu v1.3a Electronics open-source 3D printer project. Accuracy, according to the documentation, is about 0.3mm (layer height) or 84dpi, but officials say it's possible to achieve 0.1mm in some cases. Cervantes says the printer software can accept models from any design tool that produces an STL file, meaning that it could be used with most popular CAD programs.

In a video explaining the product (shown below), Cervantes said his company's goal is to make 3D printers more affordable and easier to use than before. So far, the unit's been put to work to output everything from children's toys, popular household items, and architectural models to what Cervantes said is the favorite print: the bottle opener.

With entries like Solidoodle, the Cube, and even the still-to-be released Origo (a sub-$1,000 3D printer for kids we covered previously ) pushing down the price point, it's only a matter of time before the decision to buy a 3D printer is no different than the decision to buy an office printer. And that's when the creative games will begin.

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