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3D Printers to go Mainstream, Sold at Staples and Amazon

Three-dimensional printers might soon go mainstream, as retailers are looking to market them for everyday use and sell them for affordable prices.

The technology has been around for almost 30 years, but because the printers have been priced high in the past and there was not a practical use for them, they were not sold to the public.

Now, popular retail chains are looking to profit off the devices. Staples is reportedly the first to offer a 3D printer, called the Cube, at certain stores in the country this month.

Amazon also launched a dedicated page for the machines this month.

"The whole idea of this printer is that you can have one and I can have one, and we can inspire more creation," said David Moore, district manager for 3D Systems.

For now, the printer is retailing for about $1,300. Cartridges containing plastic used to make the designs cost $49 each.

One Kickstarter project for a 3D printer is looking to sell their machines for even less at $400.

Called The Buccaneer, the Kickstarter group is aiming to sell the printer for those who are not interested in learning complicated software to create designs.

"Our long term mission is to be innovative at every level of 3D printing, from object design all the way to printing," said The Buccaneer's Kickstarter page. It has gained more than $1.1 million in support since May 30.

The personal printers typically create smaller objects not bigger than a grapefruit.

Ford has been using 3D printers to make prototypes of their cars since 1998.

"We finish these parts in a matter of hours, not weeks,"said Jeff Daily, Ford master fabricator.

The printers are also used for medical purposes. One instance included a 3D printed splint implanted into a 3-month-old boy's airway last year. It was able to help him breathe correctly and saved his life. 

But critics of the printers say there are dangers in it, especially because people have been able to print shooting guns from them.

A Texas law student sparked criticism when he successfully made a gun from a 3D printer. He posted the plans for the gun online, which led to the State Department ordering him to take them down.

Despite people's worries, the 3D printers will eventually go mainstream. By 2016, many expect the market to double.

A group of developers in the Netherlands are even building a house from a 3D printer. 

"Most important thing is that you can make any shape you want," said Dutch sculptor Rinus Roelofs. "It doesn't matter how complex the shape is, it can be built."

Sources: NY Daily News,ZDNet


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