Overall, learning to use a 3D printer was challenging. There may be some who intuitively understand how to manipulate objects using the software, but as a neophyte to the technology, I was not one of them.
Bottom line: Look before you buy
While the Alfinia H-Series 3D printer lists for about $1,600, there are less expensive printers on the way. For example, MakerBot's upcoming entry-level Replicator Mini will retail for $1,375, and 3D Systems' entry-level Cube personal printer starts at about $1,300.
Even better, there are interesting-looking printers soon to be released that will cost $500 or less. One of the more promising ones in the offing was announced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas: XYZprinting's da Vinci printer. Due out later this year, it looks like a high-quality product, with an enclosed printing area and LCD touchscreen displays. The entry-level da Vinci 1.0 model will retail for just $499.
3D in action
What I took away from learning to use a 3D printer is that the model you buy does matter. Read reviews, check specifications and ask how intuitive a machine is to use.
Whether you're an engineer in a startup, an entrepreneur looking to develop your own products or just someone who loves to make stuff for your home, 3D printers are a blast. And the more time you spend with them, the better you get at building intricate objects — even stuff you can really use.
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