CES 2014: 3D printing goes mainstream as £99 3Doodler heads for UK

When a technology has its own dedicated zone at an exhibition like CES, you know it’s one to be taken seriously. That’s the situation with 3D printing here in Las Vegas, and the manufacturers driving the fledgling industry are breaking barriers to get next-gen printing products into the hands of the everyday user.

Among them is 3Doodler, the Kickstarter success that is taking a more mainstream approach to the technology with its eye-catching plastic-printing pen, which enables even the untrained to create three-dimensional objects right in front of their eyes. Simply hold a button and watch hot plastic squirt form the pen’s nozzle before it quickly dries and stands up as a solid structure; see below for an example of what the dab-hands can create.

Refreshingly, the complicated design software and expensive production associated with 3D printing is totally bypassed here, and the 3Doodler could be in the hands of UK customers very soon.

“We’ve just appointed a UK distributor for retail [and] there’s another retail partner on the high street who we’re very excited about and hope to announce in the next four to six weeks,” 3Doodler co-founder Daniel Cowen told ITProPortal at CES. “They’re a very good fit for us and have the staff able to demo the product – which is what we need.”

“My guess is the UK price will be £99 once you’ve included VAT. That makes the most sense for us.” At a mere two-figure sum, the 3Doodler is likely to make sense for a lot of customers too, so when can we get our hands on it?

“I want to see it in the UK by March. We’re pushing for that,” Cowen said.

The innovative product seems to have found a sweet spot between futuristic technology and accessible fun, but the possibilities are running beyond consumer distribution for the 3Doodler team. Cowen envisages the pen being used in schools to help teach the principles of construction, while science and art lessons could also benefit from the pen’s capabilities.

As such, 3Doodler has also secured an educational distributor for the UK, and Cowen revealed interest had come from other sectors too. “We’ve had a couple of enquiries from the medical industry for augmenting prosthetics, and another guy we met at a conference in Boston wanted to use this for augmenting implants… We want to get the product into their hands now and let them try it out.”

Thanks to the likes of 3Doodler and its more prominent industry peers, the world of 3D printing is moving fast. As such, we wanted to know when Cowen believes 3D printing will become a regular technology entrenched in our everyday lives.

“I’d say five to ten years. When something starts to become affordable and goes mainstream it gets absorbed and stops being a niche in itself,” he said.

“It is still a niche but I think in a few years you’ll see major printing brands that we know today with their own 3D printers and you’ll see craft fairs with 3D printers. At that point 3D printing has made it.”