3D printing takes over the Tech Tavern: Having fun with Makerbot Replicator and Replicator Mini

There's something extremely alluring about building something from scratch, using the power of your mind and basic materials. That, in a nutshell, is 3D printing. At it's heart it is simple. But in action, it's magical.

On the last day of the Pocket-lint Tech Tavern at The Fable in Holborn, London, Computers Unlimited, the distributor of Makerbot 3D printers in the UK set-up and provided live demonstrations of two of its latest models: Makerbot Replicator and Makerbot Replicator Mini. And the Tavern visitors were fascinated.

The latest Makerbot Replicator is the fifth generation 3D printer from the company. It costs around two grand, not including VAT, but for that you can build 3D objects up to 252 x 199 x 150mm, so decent-sized toys or replacement parts for other gear.

It has a dial and full colour screen, so you can actually choose stored projects without needing to connect a computer at all. However, you probably will want to as the amount of model designs available for free on Makerbot's own website and the Thingverse is staggering.

That applies to the Makerbot Replicator Mini too, an even newer addition to the line-up. As the name suggests, it's smaller and has less capacity, with a build volume of 100 x 100 x 125mm, but still uses the exact same materials and is a grand cheaper.

It doesn't come with its own screen through, so needs to be controlled by a connected PC, Mac or, alternatively, an iPad as Computers Unlimited as showed Pocket-lint the brand new app it has just introduced.

Having seen a Makerbot in action before, we're au fait with the quality of the finished products. But there are some that still amaze us each and every time. A plastic link chain, for example, is built in one piece, even though each link rattles separately when it has been attached from the base.

The new app is also capable of converting text into 3D writing, as evidenced with our own #techtavern hashtag, which the CU team made for us. And what's more it didn't take long to build at all - three hours for a substantial object.

3D printing is one of the most exciting areas of tech advancement right now. Or, at least, one of the most fun. And Makerbot and its UK distributor are at the cutting edge of its introduction as a genuine, everyday household appliance.

The price will undoubtedly plummet in the next couple of years and we'll be first in the queue.