Makerbot has gotten a lot of buzz for its Replicator 3D printers, which can interpret designs and then build (print) objects while you watch. They're not the only player in town anymore - there are lots of options for anyone to start doodling or printing in 3D. Staples has announced that it will soon offer a 3D printing service in its stores, starting in Europe. But those of us in the U.S. and elsewhere can check out the following tools to use at home, in the meantime. The list of things you can create with 3D printers is practically endless: napkin rings, iPhone stands, poker chips, jewelry -- even the Eiffel Tower.
The 3Doodler is a 3D printing pen that's said to be as easy to use as it is to doodle on paper. When you start to draw, heated plastic oozes out of the pen, which is then cooled by an integrated fan so that it turns solid. It works on any surface, or even in the air. You can watch a video of how it works here. The only catch is that it's not yet for sale. The makers of the 3Doodler raised money on Kickstarter and are well above their goal. The 3Doodler should begin shipping next February to those who pledged at least $50.
Sculpteo is another 3D printing service that allows you to upload 3D files of your designs and order prints. To get a sense for what Sculpteo can create, you can order a 3D key ring free of charge. The site offers numerous workshops too. Like Shapeways, the site also allows you to sell and buy 3D printed objects.
Makerbot sells three different 3D printers in its Replicator line (prices start at $1749). You can use your own design or download a model from the "Thingiverse," a collection of designs that have been created using Makerbot 3D printers, such as photo frames, smartphone cases and even camera lens filters. Makerbot also has a 3D scanner in the works, the Digitizer, that can take 3D objects and turn them into designs so you can recreate them.