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Cubify Wants To Domesticate The 3-D Printer

After struggling to find their footing in the growing market, the 3-D printing company won Best Emerging Technology at CES 2013.

  • <p>The Cube, Cubify’s second generation desktop 3-D printer.</p>
  • <p>Starting at $1,299, the Cube is significantly less expensive than its competitors.</p>
  • <p>Its designers tout the ease of use and dependability among its best qualities.</p>
  • <p>Cubify markets the device as something that can "be learned by an eight year old in 15 minutes or less."</p>
  • <p>Small models printed with the Cube.</p>
  • <p>The CubeX, a more advanced model aimed at professionals, won the Best Emerging Technology award at this year’s CES.</p>
  • 01 /06

    The Cube, Cubify’s second generation desktop 3-D printer.

  • 02 /06

    Starting at $1,299, the Cube is significantly less expensive than its competitors.

  • 03 /06

    Its designers tout the ease of use and dependability among its best qualities.

  • 04 /06

    Cubify markets the device as something that can "be learned by an eight year old in 15 minutes or less."

  • 05 /06

    Small models printed with the Cube.

  • 06 /06

    The CubeX, a more advanced model aimed at professionals, won the Best Emerging Technology award at this year’s CES.

Amongst other surprises at CES this year, young 3-D printing company Cubify took home the Best Emerging Tech award for their second-generation printer, the CubeX. Launched only a year after their first machine, the CubeX and its little brother, the Cube, sell at a significantly lower cost than competitors and are geared toward kids, artists, and other consumers who might not have a ton of experience with the technology. They’re your mother’s 3-D printer—and I mean that in a very good way.

The irony behind their friendly, primary-colored marketing materials is that Cubify is actually the consumer brand of the first 3-D printing company ever: 3D Systems, a 30-year-old company founded by inventor Chuck Hull. Hull patented the first 3-D printer (he called it a stereolithography apparatus) in 1983. He was responsible for everything from developing the .STL file format to engineering the chemical makeup of the material. As CTO of 3D Systems, he’s found a way to advocate for the democratization of a technology he invented.

It took nearly three decades for Hull to bring the Cube to market, and he’s done so in a very deliberate way. In addition to a personal printer that costs less than $1,300, Cubify runs a cloud printing service, an e-commerce site where you can buy items, and recently launched an open API for developers who want to build Cubify-based web apps. It’s a pretty big enterprise, marketed in punchy colors and language like "plug-in easy" and "coloring-book simple." It’s the down-to-earth cousin of geek-hipster MakerBot.

I got in touch with Cubify’s Alyssa Reichental to ask about the company’s idea of what 3-D printing will look like down the road. According to her, a combination of cloud printing and at-home printing is more likely than ubiquitous personal printers. "We think that cloud printing will continue to be a staple as well," she says. "For example, a local garage might print your car parts." Another big part of the company’s mission is to enable more small businesses. "It’s a great way to build your business," she adds. "Since it’s on-demand, there’s no inventory. It’s a zero-waste model."

Cubify’s goal isn’t to predict the future of the technology or be first-to-market. It wants to get cheap, dependable 3-D printers into as many homes and businesses as possible—then see what happens.

Check out the Cube, which starts at $1,299, here.