Remember the “Replicator” in Star Trek? It would reproduce anything from guns to butter. Well, we’re on our way to replicating what no one has replicated before: 3D printers are coming.  Right now, the “MakerBot Replicator” sells for $1800 to $2000, which is what desktop printers cost in their early days.

 The MakerBot designer says kids get it right away, and that’s probably because early users are mainly making toys with this thing. Go to to see 15,000 project plans, such as knights and princesses, rocket ship inhabitants, neckties and so on. (Actually, Bob has a home-printed silk tie made 15 years ago with a Canon inkjet printer.)

Another hand in this game is 3D Systems, which makes “The Cube.”  They invented this kind of 3D printing 25 years ago. They make industrial strength units for sculpting prototypes from drawings, and they sell the units for tens of thousands of dollars. This is a much more sophisticated kind of model making machine and they say they will produce a home version for around $1,300 some time later this year. See some of their solid-printing results at Design models can be quite intricate, but are limited to 5.5-inches in any direction.

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