CES 2011: Thing-O-Matic

With the whole of CES drooling over the 20 + tablets and a myriad of 3D TV’s on show, our eye was caught by a 3D printer, now this has nothing to do with Avatar or those crappy 3D glasses. This is essentially a Star Trek replicator if you will. The Thing-O-Matic looks like something the doc from Back To The Future dreamt up after he was finished with the flux-capacitor.

It works like this: connect the Thing-O-Matic to your computer via USB, and then you can use the open-source MakerBot ReplicatorG software to create 3D models of your designs, the MakerBot software will effectively slice that model up into sub-millimetre layers. Then the Thing-O-Matic builds those layers out of heated up ABS plastic filament. Layer by layer your masterpiece will be born into the real world.

Now this sort of 3D printing is common-place in high-tech manufacturing, but Thing-O-Matic is the first one we’ve seen that is being aimed at the public. In terms of size it will produce objects that are up to 6 by 6 by 7 inches. So, there’s no chance of making a sonic-death-ray, but it could make some lovely ornate mantel pieces, perfect as gift for your nan.

According to MakerBot industries, the plastic it uses costs about £6.40 per pound, which sounds rather reasonable. This printer itself  will set you back £790 – which is quite cheap compared to how much they usually cost.

3D printers aren’t new technology, but this one is particularly charming — we love the old-timey wooden frame, and the fact that you can watch the Thing-O-Matic actually crafting the stuff you’re making. And that it glows of course. Means it’s a winner in our eyes. And the company name, a stroke of genius, taken straight out of a cartoon world.

MakerBot Industries

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