Amazon moves 3-D printers closer to the mainstream

As VentureBeat and several other sites noted this week, recently added a new section focused on 3-D printers and their related supplies, joining Staples as a major retailer supporting the technology.

So far, 3-D printers aren’t exactly splashed across the Amazon homepage under “The Perfect Gift For Dad” heading — instead they’re tucked away with the “Industrial & Scientific” products. Still, their addition represents recognition that 3-D printing is a unique and growing product category. You can visit the site for yourself here.

3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, has been a boon to robotics researchers, hobbyists and start-ups for a while now. A new low-cost 3-D printer seemingly gets funded on Kickstarter every day, and more established companies like MakerBot, 3D Systems and Stratasys continue to release new printers aimed at both individuals and businesses.

Still, the technology remains in its relative infancy. With greater availability through retailers like Amazon and Staples, we may get a better sense of just how much of a consumer market there is for these devices. Most likely the cost — generally north of a thousand dollars even for the most affordable models — will need to come down further before they gain widespread appeal. However, eventually that will happen, and budding young roboticists will have a tool that previous generations could hardly have imagined.

[ photo courtesy of MakerBot ]