It all started back in 2007 when the first RepRap machine was built. The idea behind RepRap was to design a machine that could build complex parts in three dimensions using extruded molten plastic and that machine could also "self-replicate" or build a copy of itself. Also, RepRap is a fully open source project that draws on the collective resources of its community to further advance the technology and the vision of the "Self Replicating Machine."
Since then 3D printers of all types have emerged from the community, from almost household names like MakerBot, (one of the largest player in this space, now a proprietary product) to the likes of Solidoodle, PP3DP, and 3D Systems, a pioneer in StereoLithography that invented the STL file format. STL is also known as Standard Tessellation Language and it's the file format that is widely used for 3D printers, like all of the machines we're going to show you here in this review. Gamers, you may recall the word "tessellation", as it is a key feature in DirectX 11 and OpenGL 3D graphics rendering. Tessellation helps define datasets for rendering 3D structures in the virtual world as well as the real world, in the case of 3D printing. See how it all ties in? Kinda cool, huh?
We thought so too. So we decided to reach out to a few of the more prominent names in 3D printing and do our usual round-up two step with them. Unfortunately, the folks at MakerBot were either too busy getting their Rep 2 system off the ground or putting together fancy marketing campaigns for it, so we weren't able to get that machine in but we may come back to it another day. However, we do have systems in from Solidoodle with the Solidoodle 2, PP3DP with their Up! Mini, and 3D Systems, the godfather of STL, with their Cube 3D. First, let's give you a quick guided tour of these machines, then we'll do our usual deep dive.
Virtual 3D objects have graced the pages of HotHardware many times over the years. Now, it's about to get real...
3D System's Cube 3D Printer - $1299 MSRP
PP3DP's UP! Mini 3D Printer - $899 MSRP
Solidoodle 2 "Expert" 3D Printer - $699 MSRP (as low as $499 base)