The first time I’d ever heard of MakerBot was at my first Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (2009, maybe?). I stood at their booth for a really long time, transfixed by the 3D printer in front of me, producing a little toy, layer by almost-imperceptible layer.
Those first 3D printers were actually DIY kits – you had to solder them together yourself, which seemed a bit out of my skillset. But fast forward to now, when MakerBot has a line of 3D printers that arrive already put together. They even sell a desktop 3D scanner!
I visited the MakerBot store in Manhattan for the first time to check things out for myself. (There are also stores in Greenwich and Boston.)
In addition to selling their printers and scanners, the MakerBot store can scan and print things out for you. And they have a wide selection of already-printed items.
When I walked in I was blown away by the intricate products scattered around the store. These little houses were my favorite thing!
And despite having delicate details, like the windowpanes, they were super strong, as tested out repeatedly by my friend Adam’s adorable daughter. :-)
The MakerBot store also has an amazing person-sized scanner where, for $5, you can get a scan of yourself! I mean, how could I not? You can then get yourself printed out! (Prices vary based on size.) This would make an amazing gift alternative to a regular old portrait for grandma (although keep in mind, you have to be at least 10 years old and 48” to be scanned).
If you think a bust of yourself is a little boring, you can take your scan and do other things with it, like this person did:
But there are more “normal” gifts there too, everything from watches to jewelry to puzzles to piggie banks to MP3 players shaped like old cassette tapes.
The design for this seesaw math puzzle (top right) can be downloaded from MakerBot’s design website, Thingiverse, where you can also find other free and paid designs for everything from jewelry to IKEA hacks. It’s a thriving community driven by MakerBot users and owners.
There is definitely a 3D printer in my future. The MakerBot Replicator Mini is their most compact and least expensive unit. It has WiFi connectivity, and even has a camera so that you can check in on how your printing job is going and share pictures! It prints with PLA plastic, which is a bio-degradable, vegetable-based plastic.
I’ve been doing a lot of school tours with my kids lately, and most of the schools that we’ve visited have at least one MakerBot printer that they’ve integrated into the science curriculum. First Robotics even allows a certain portion of teams’ robots to be printed now!
I can’t believe how far this technology has come in the five short years since I first saw it.
The MakerBot Store provided me with a complimentary bust of myself, as well as a mini-Tardis for my son, who completely geeked out.