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How 3-D Printing Works

3-D Printing at Home

Students from the Goethesschule High School present their homemade 3-D printer at the 2015 CeBIT technology trade fair in Hanover, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

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Although it's still not commonplace 3-D printers are showing up in more homes, libraries, schools and makerspaces.

Prices for these machines have also declined as the technology matures. For example, as of 2019, a MakerBot Replicator Mini+ starts at $1,299 [source: MakerBot]. The company sells small spools of its PLA material in 12 standard colors starting at $18, and limited-edition colors (glow-in-the-dark, anyone?) for an extra charge.

If you don't want to splurge on a machine for home use, you could always build one yourself. For example, physicist and blogger Windell Oskay built his own 3-D printer in 2007 that fabricates objects from sugar using a sintering approach. The project, called CandyFab, has a dedicated website at CandyFab.org. Although the project has shut down, you can still read about it and how he made it work.

For a more professional approach, you can purchase 3-D printing services instead. These services allow you to send in your own CAD files and get back a high-quality production of your object or objects created by an industrial 3-D printer. Online companies that offer 3-D printing services include Shapeways and Ponoko. These sites also give you the option of setting up an online store, allowing you to make money when others purchase 3-D prints of your design. [source: Shapeways, Ponoko]

3-D printing continues to improve as its cost comes down. Perhaps in the future these machines will be commonplace tools used to remedy everyday problems like printing out school projects or printing a new housekey instead of driving to the hardware store for a replacement.

Last editorial update on Sep 25, 2019 05:01:14 pm.

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