What has always seemed the stuff of pie in the sky will be coming to your home within weeks. 3D printing has been around on an industrial level for a while, but now a company called 3D Systems has come up with a version for the home called Cubify that can be yours for $1,300 by the end of Q1 2012. Pocket-lint went hands-on with the very thing at CES to find out exactly what it's all about.
The Cubify printer itself is a decent size with much of the bulk taken up by the round cartridge on the side that looks rather like the magazine of a 1920s Thompson machine gun. Sadly, it's just the one cartridge at a time that you can load, meaning that printing has to be of one colour at a time. In terms of the material used, it's an ABS plastic resin that's heated up and liquefied as it travels to the print head. It is set down in a series of lateral layers, one built on top of the other, cooling and setting as it does so.
The designs themselves are currently supplied by the Cubify site where you can download around 1,000 different ones, stick them on a USB key and into the printer. If you happen to be a dab hand at 3D CAD packages, then you can also create your own and even upload them to the community.
In the near future, however, even design novices should be able to enjoy tailor making their own bits and pieces. The company demoed the idea of using the Kinect, essentially a 3D scanner, as an input device. Currently the limitations are in the quality and resolution of the image which is where the idea of teaming up with the people behind the Lytro camera comes in. The files from those pictures would have everything Cubify would need and in plenty of detail too. Expect some movement here some time in the near future.
3D Systems is just waiting for the sign of from the FTC in the States before Cubify printers start shipping. Cartridges will cost $50 a go and, to give you some context, you'll get around 10 chess piece sized objects out of each one at a cost of $5 in materials to print. Arrival on the shelves of the UK and Europe should be pretty much at the same time.
Sure, there are plenty of limitations and this won't suddenly mean that we start printing TVs and cars at home, but what you can make with ABS at the moment is a decent start.