MakerBot: A Printer in Every School, And a Company With Heart

LAS VEGAS (TheStreet) -- MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis kicked off his presentation at CES with the announcement that the company had 44,000 units out in the world and he envisions 1,000,000 in the future. With the addition of three new machines, it might not take too long.

Stratasys (SSYS)-owned MakerBot unveiled its consumer facing product, the Mini Consumer One Touch 3D printer. It will retail for $1,375 and will be available in the spring. It's app and cloud enabled with USB and Wi-Fi connectivity. The machine comes with a camera that allows the user to send photos of projects. The cloud capability allows the machine to text you when its done and if it runs out of filiment.

The next printer is the "Prosumer" version with a few more buttons than just the one. It has more options in order to help set up the machine and maintain it. It just went on sale for $2,899, so its more expensive, but it's also a big step beyond the hobbyist.

MakerBot's final machine announced is the Z18, an industrial strength printer, that will be ready in the spring of 2014. It can make models 12 inches by 18 inches. MakerBot can use this machine to make more MakerBots, allowing the Brooklyn-bsaed company to come full circle.

What separates MakerBot from other 3D printer companies like 3D Systems (DDD) or AutoDesk (ADSK) and its 123D printer, is its desire to facilitate creativity. Pettis announced free desktop appllications and a free design tool called Printshop. Pettis also said he has a goal of putting a MakerBot in every school. That sounds a bit like Apple (AAPL) doesn't it when they started out in schools.

Pettis even had his "Oh and one more thing" moment at the end of his presentation, where he talked about MakerBot Entertainment, a marketplace for MakerBot products.

MakerBot may count Lockheed Martin (LMT) as it biggest customer, but Pettis seems deeply concerned about his small consumer. It may be this sincere desire to be the everyman 3D printer that will set this company apart and give it a heart.

--Written by Debra Borchardt in Las Vegas.

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