New company aims to bring 3-D printers to home users

February 13, 2015 by Jessica Stoller-Conrad

Imagine you have an idea for a new object—say, a custom phone case that perfectly molds to your hand or a cupholder that attaches to your laptop. Then, an hour later, a tangible plastic version of that item materializes just a few feet away, right in your living room. This scenario might sound a bit futuristic, but New Matter, a company founded by Caltech alum Steve Schell (BS '01), is determined to make affordable, at-home 3-D printing a reality in the present.

Schell was introduced to 3-D printing—a process that uses melted plastic to "print" three-dimensional objects—as a way to make quick industrial prototypes in his first job after graduating from Caltech with a degree in . The technology has been gaining popularity in recent years, but consumer 3-D printers cost over $1,000 and require computer-programming knowledge to turn an idea into an object.

To reduce these barriers, Schell and his colleagues at New Matter came up with the MOD-t printer. By decreasing the number of components and moving parts, the company was able to dramatically cut costs; the MOD-t printer is now available for preorder from the company's website for only $279. The also features user-friendly software and a marketplace where programming novices can buy and print premade designs from more experienced users.

Although at-home 3-D printing is often associated with making jewelry or decorative items, Schell says that it could also be used for more practical tasks—like making a replacement part for your dishwasher. He says the MOD-t printers should start shipping to homes in the spring of 2015.

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not rated yet Feb 13, 2015
There are several companies offering 3D printers for home users. This is nothing new and cost really isn't much lower than some other options.

Lowering the purchase cost is just one part of the equation; the consumable materials are a main expense for those that use the printer often enough to justify the initial purchase cost. Some 3D printer companies are trying to copy the inkjet printer market where the ink is the main source of profit for the printer manufacturer. Watch out for 3D printers that come with special cartridges...

Although a 3D printer can be very useful for home users, particularly those with a hobby that needs small parts that aren't easily available, for most people they are simply not cost effective because they will only make a few things.

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