First teased at this year’s CES conference, the MakerBot Replicator Mini has finally started shipping to consumers in the U.S. and will be available in-store later this week.
The compact unit weighs just 18 pounds and stands a mere 15-inches high. It constitutes one of the best attempts yet at a truly mainstream 3D printing device for the home.
“We see the MakerBot Replicator Mini as a turning point in the 3D printing industry,” said MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis in a statement, “much like the transition of the computer moving into the home 30 years ago.”
The cost is $1,375 — about the price of a high-end laptop.
Not that the price and small footprint are guarantees of success. Pettis’ Replicator Mini enters a space already occupied by the well-designed and cheaper (at $1,299) Cube 2 3D printer from 3DSystems.
Still, MakerBot’s advantage comes in its brick and mortar retail locations in New York, Boston and Connecticut, outlets that should help demystify the technology for mainstream consumers.
Along with the shipping announcement on Monday, MakerBot also released an unboxing video and a brief but detailed set-up video that illustrates just how easy the device is to get up and running. This is a necessity given the still niche appeal of 3D printing, despite its growing profile in popular culture.
The video walks the user through the process of installing the MakerBot smart extruder, the component that builds the 3D models, and the build platform and the PLA filament, the plastic material used to construct objects.
Also included is a camera that allows the user to monitor the whole printing process remotely — a particularly useful feature given that some builds can take up to six hours.
Although Wi-Fi capability was mentioned during the debut of the device in January, that particular feature is still not available. A MakerBot spokesperson told Mashable that a firmware update enabling the feature would be available “very soon, likely before the end of the summer.”