QUEENS, N.Y. — To show how far 3D printing has come in the last few years, John Abella placed two 3D- printed plastic flowerpots side by the side.
One pot, printed in 2009, was a little lopsided, had a ridged feel from its layers of plastic, and fit easily in the palm of the hand. At the time, this was the largest object a home 3D printer could make, said Abella, who has organized the 3D Printer Village here at Maker Faire since the village's inception in 2010. Maker Faire is an annual festival where tinkerers and hobbyists show off their technologically minded projects.
The other pot, printed at the fair this year, was three times as large, was neat and straight, and had a much smoother feel.
Over the past few years, hobbyists' 3D printers have become much cheaper, faster, more reliable and easier to use, Abella said. They're still primarily the province of avid do-it-yourselfers, but people are now much more aware of them and what they do, he said. A few Maker Faire participants told us that in the future, many families could have a 3D printer at work or at home.
[SEE ALSO: How 3D Printing Could Become Commonplace]
We talked with several 3D printing experts attending Maker Faire to learn where 3D printers are now, who uses them, and how they might be used in the future. We also took a look at one commercially available home printer that's designed to be easier to set up and start using: MakerBot Industries' Replicator 2.