Amazon is helping to push 3D printing into the mainstream with a new section on its site dedicated to the miniature manufacturing plants. The online shopping giant joins Staples, which in early May became the first major U.S. retailer to sell a 3D printer.
Amazon's new 3D printing section is a one-stop shop for used and new printers such as the MakerBot Replicator 2, as well as plastic filament to stock up your machine, books, software, and various parts and supplies.
[Here at TechHive, we've been pretty possessed by 3D printing, as shown in the photo at the top of the story. Take a look at some of the tchotchkes we've printed out for fun.]
3D printing defined
If you're unfamiliar with 3D printing the concept is pretty simple: a machine--small enough to fit on a counter or table--takes plastics, and sometimes other materials, to create physical objects. It does this by layering the material over and over until the physical object is completed.
The printer requires a digital design file for any object you want to print, but hobbyists can check out sites such as Thingiverse to get started.
Amazon quietly created the dedicated 3D printing section on its site last month. Its interest in the topic shows that 3D printing could be become one of the next great technology revolutions alongside self-driving cars and wearable technology like Google Glass.
Unlike robot cars and prototype eyewear, however, 3D printing is something almost anyone can get involved with right now. Newbies can grab the SoliDoodle 3D printer for just $500 or risk $400 on Kickstarter to support Pirate3D and the promise of a fully-assembled printer called the Buccaneer .
[Related:Inside MakerBot's 3D printer factory]
Amazon shoppers looking to start extruding filament in their own homes won't find such low-priced models from the online retailer's store. Prices on Amazon start at $1100 for the JET Open Source 3D print all the way up to $3,000 for a fully assembled Fabbster 3D printer, Model 11-1.
While everyone may soon be printing cups and light switches from the comfort of their own home, 3D printing is also sparking some concern over the myriad of possibilities the technology offers.
When schematics for a 3D-printed gun called the Liberator popped up online in May, the U.S. State Department was quick to issue a takedown order to the site that originally published the design.
The Department of Homeland Security also is concerned about the issue of 3D-printed guns, and a New York City councilman recently introduced a bill that would make it illegal to make a 3D-printed gun without being a licensed gunsmith, according to Ars Technica.
Staples announced in early that May that its online store would start selling the Cube 3D Printer for $1300.
At the time, Staples said it was the first major U.S. retailer to start selling 3D printers. The company plans to roll out The Cube to a limited number of retail stores by June 29, a Staples representative told TechHive.