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Are New Ultra-Cheap 3D Printers Revolutionary or Just Toys?

Tiny objects produced by a 3D printer

Tiny objects produced by a 3D printer // Allen Breed/AP

Meet the Replicator 2. She’s top of the line, for home 3D printers, and she’ll cost you $2,200, not including shipping:

That’s about what a good PC cost in the 1980′s. And the parallels between the personal computing revolution and the one in 3D printing are irresistible (they’ve been made countless times in all the usual places). Ok, so these things don’t do much more than print out easily-breakable, rough-hewn plastic tchotchkes, but watch out! Some day we’ll use them to solve the really big problems.

Now meet the Pirate3D printer, care of a startup in Singapore. It claims that once it launches, it will be the “world’s cheapest” 3D printer, at around $350 apiece:

But wait! World’s cheapest anythings rarely remain that way for long, and Pirate3D’s claim seems extra silly considering that another company, Hong Kong-based MakiBox, says it will be churning out an even cheaper model for as little as $200 by June of 2013. Meanwhile, current record-holder for world’s cheapest 3D printer, Printrbot, will be shipping a new model for just $300.

What’s incredible about these devices is how quickly their prices are falling. Just two years ago, a DIY kit for making your own home 3D printer—with huge amounts of assembly required—was $500. A year later, a comparable but simpler model from Printrbot was $400. And as of this year, the list of cheap 3D printers is longer than ever.

Read more at Quartz

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