If 2015 proved anything in regards to 3D printing, it was that 3D printing is totally awesome and totally not for everyone. Makerbot struggled to turn 3D printing mainstream for many reasons (namely price and usability), and we didn’t quite arrive in the idealistic future of everyone being able to print spare parts for their Ikea furniture. We did, however, get a 3D printer from Polaroid (of all companies) that will launch in Europe early this year. This year’s CES might as well have had the slogan, “What’s old is new again,” and Polaroid is hoping to use some of its brand cache to establish itself in a new market.
Polaroid wasn’t the only brand with 3D printers present, though. A slew of other, lesser known brands were also vying to become the next big name in 3D printing. People love custom. Anything made “just for you” feels that much more special. Based on 3D printing‘s showing at CES this year, 2016 may not be the breakout year we want it to be, but 3D printing certainly hasn’t gone away.
Polaroid? Yes. Polaroid.
Polaroid’s new 3D printer is called the ModelSmart 250S and uses Polaroid’s proprietary 1.75mm PLA filament (which is available in 9 colors). The cartridges of filament (like a printer cartridge) will let you know exactly how much material you’ve got left as you print. The name may not roll off the tongue, but Polaroid is hoping that specially made adhesive sheets will make it easier than ever to start and remove what you’re printing. Called Z-Axis Sheets, Polaroid also claims that the sheets reduce stress on the print head.
Polaroid is also releasing its own 3D printing software to use with the ModelSmart 250S. Polaroid has always been adamant about building its own closed ecosystems (remember the Polaroid camera with its proprietary film?), so their decision to use custom software should come as no surprise. Polaroid hasn’t always offered the strongest software, but they claim that the ModelSmart 250S’s software can have you printing in just three clicks.
Polaroid may have captured headlines with their surprise announcement, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t other 3D printers at CES. In fact, there were several other promising candidates. Here are some of the more notable printers:
LulzBot Mini 3D Printer
If open source is your jam, the LulzBot will make you very happy. It was developed by volunteeer engineers who collaborated together, and is certified by the Free Software foundation. With an open design, the LulzBot imagines a future of 3D without restrictions.
If you need to print something larger than a small figurine, the Ultimaker 2 is for you. With a premium design (and price tag of $2,499), this 3D printer strives to be the best on the market.
Developed by 3D Systems, the Cube 3 is kinda cute. With a compact footprint, the Cube 3 wants to make 3D printing accessible and easy. Priced at $799, it’s not a device for everyone quite yet, but it certainly won’t take up too much room in your apartment.