3D printer prices drop, food printers arrive at CES

A new 3D ceramic printer can make you a teapot in five hours

At last year's CES show, five 3D printer companies - 3D Systems, Stratasys, FormLabs, MakerBot, and Afinia - showed their wares. This year, that number has grown to more than 20.

With competition and increased production, prices have begun to drop markedly. Here's a look at some of these companies and their products.

XYZprinting

Industry newcomer XYZprinting launched its da Vinci, a personal 3D printer priced at $499. The printer will be available in U.S., Europe, and Japan in March. XYZprintinG is owned and backed by New Kinpo Group, one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world.

As with most of the new consumer machines, the da Vinci requires no setup. It is an enclosed printer that uses fused filament fabrication (FFF) technology (akin to melting and extruding weed-whacker string on a flat metal plate) to print objects at up to 7.8-in x 7.8-in x7.8-in. in size.

XYZprinting's new da Vinci 3D printer is read to use out of the box and costs $499.

XYZ has also come out with a 2.0 version of their 3D printer that has a larger print bed and a 2.1 version that includs Wi-Fi connectivity and a 5-in. LCD touch screen for choosing images to print and downloading them.

The printer can use a household wireless router to connect to a cloud database with thousands of free 3D models that consumers can customize.

Filament cartridges are available in 12 colors.

3D Systems

3D Systems, the first consumer 3D printer company, announced six new models at CES that will ship starting in the second quarter.

The company's third-generation "Cube" printers were announced this week and include the Cube and Cube Pro, which will sell for under $1,000 and $5,000, respectively when they become available in the second quarter.

The new Cube can print in 22 colors using the most common filaments, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable plastic.

Layers can be as thin as 75 microns or up to 200 microns and objects can be as large as 6 inches in size.

3D Systems' third-generation Cube printer.

The Cube Pro can also print using ABS or PLA filaments, but it can create objects up to 10.8 in. x 10.4-in x 9.5-in in size. The printer also has a "fast mode" that prints layers at a thickness of 350 micron but is 75% faster than the 200-micron mode.

The company also announced its CubeJet 3D printer, which will be priced under $5,000. The desktop 3D printer can print a full-range of colors in high-resolution for a wide range of modeling and actual products. The printer, designed specifically for small businesses, hobbyists and educators, uses 3D System's ColorJet Printing (CJP) technology. CJP is an additive manufacturing technology that uses a core, powdered material spread in thin layers over the build platform with a roller. After each layer is spread, color binder is selectively jetted from inkjet print heads over the core layer, which causes the core to solidify.

The company also launched a new ceramics 3D printer, the CeraJet, which uses ceramic powder in an inkjet-like cartridge that is combined with a liquid binder when it's sprayed out.

A bit larger than a washing machine, when the printer is available in the second half of this year, it will sell for under $10,000. Small manufacturers and other companies would use the CeraJet for creating prototypes and products, said Andrew Jeffery, director of ceramics at 3D Systems.

"It has the durability of any other ceramic and will last 30,000 years," Jeffery said.

A ceramic teapot printed in five hours on the new CeraJet ceramic 3D printer.

Besides new printers, 3D Systems has a new 3D scanner called the iSense, that plugs into an iPad and allows users to take photos that are immediately transferred to the computer. The 3D images can then be uploaded to the 3D Systems Cubify.com cloud printing site.

The 3D scanner will cost $499 when it debuts in the second quarter.

The most interesting 3D printer of the bunch is the ChefJet 3D Printer series, which can print food, well, confections, that is. 3D Systems announced last year that it was developing a 3D food printer. The new ChefJet and ChefJet Pro (the larger version) were released this week and can print a variety of recipes.

The ChefJet printer is expected to sell for under $5,000 while the larger ChefJet Pro (also about the size of a washing machine) will retail in the sub-$10,000 range.

The ChefJet can build an object up to 8 in. x 8 in. x 6 in. in size, and the ChefJet Pro can print up to 10 in. x 14 in x 8 in. Both printers can use several flavors including chocolate, vanilla, mint, sour apple, cherry and watermelon.

The machines can print cake toppers, centerpieces, garnishes and custom candies.

A sugar centerpiece made by the ChefJet 3D printer.

MakerBot releases three new 3D printers

Not to be outdone, MakerBot also released three new printers, the fifth generation of its Replicator line. The printers only use PLA that comes in 16 colors, including six translucent.

This generation of MakerBot Replicator printers are also app and cloud-enabled so users can download CAD images for printing over Wi-Fi directly on the machine.

The Replicator Mini, the smallest printer of the bunch, will retail for $1,375, when it becomes available this spring. The Mini has a build volume of 3.9 in. x 3.9 in. x 4.9 in. in size.

The MakerBot Replicator, the middle of the line, will retail for $2,899. It has a build area of 456 cubic inches, about 11% larger than its predecessor, the Replicator 2. The machine can connect to a computer via USB and Ethernet to download CAD images to print. The printer comes equipped with a 3.5-in. color LCD display. The machine is also expected to have Wi-Fi capability soon.

The fifth generation of the MakerBot Replicator 3D printer.

The Replicator Z18 is the largest of MakerBot's desktop 3D printers. It has a build area of 12 in. x 12 in. x 18 in. The printer will sell for $6,499.

The largest of the 3D printer makers, industrial manufacturer Stratasys, didn't announce new machines, but said it launched a new, tougher filament with which to print.

The filament, Nylon 12, can withstand more than 16,700 pounds per square inch of pressure and yet is more pliable than any previous material used for 3D printing, according to Jon Cobb, vice president of global marketing of Stratasys.

"This nylon has very good impact strength," he said. "You could see it being used for working hinges or for a covering over components, like car interior doors or dashboards."

A Stratasys employee demonstrates Nylon 12's flexibility and strength. The new 3D printing material can withstand tremendous amounts of pressure and wear.

This article, 3D printer prices drop, food printers arrive at CES, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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