Solidoodle Press Is Plug-and-3D Printer for Beginners

The Solidoodle Press 3d printer, on display at CES 2015. The Solidoodle Press 3d printer, on display at CES 2015.

LAS VEGAS -- Just a few years ago, 3D printers were far too complicated and expensive for regular consumers. That's no longer the case in 2015: Printers such as the new Solidoodle Press, which costs just $599, are easier to use and more affordable than ever.

With a simple setup and an easy software interface, the Solidoodle Press is for people just starting to enter the brave new world of 3D printing. Announced last summer and now on sale, the Solidoodle Press was on display at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) here this week.

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From its no-assembly-required design to its intuitive and simple software interface, the Solidoodle Press was designed to be as easy to use as possible. Users can find free 3D model files to download, or upload their own to share with others, on Solidoodles.com.

The printer’s build volume is 8 x 8 x 8 inches, and it can print objects in layers as fine as 100 microns. Both these are about the industry standard for consumer 3D printers, though the $599 price point is comparatively lower than competitors such as the Makerbot Replicator Mini ($1,375).  However, it is more expensive than the $250 Mod-t or the $349 da Vinci Junior, both forthcoming.

The Solidoodle Press is designed to print in PLA and ABS plastics, the two most common 3D-printing materials. You can purchase filament from Solidoodle or buy your own third-party filament and feed it into the machine, which lets users experiment with different materials (though that might void your warranty). To send jobs to the printer, you just connect the Press to a computer via a USB.

For more advanced users, Solidoodle also announced two more robust 3D printers: the Workbench ($1,299) and Workbench Apprentice ($799). These feature dual extruders, which let users print in two different colors at once or use the second extruder to print in PVA, a support material ideal for building overhangs, arches and other complicated shapes. PVA is water-soluble, so after the 3D printed objects it was supporting has dried, it can be washed away, leaving only the desired shape.

The Workbench has a print volume of 12 x 12 x 12 inches, and the Workbench Apprentice has one of 6 x 6 x 8 inches. These printers have a more bare-bones, open-frame design than the Solidoodle Press, and also use more complicated and robust software, based on the open-source software Repetier. It may intimidate 3D-printing newbies, but the software gives advanced users far more control over prints.

Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can email Jill at jscharr@tomsguide.com, or follow her on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and onGoogle+.

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