I don't want to fall into the habit of only blogging once per year about MakerFaire. So this post is actually about a crop of cool new 3D printers, and I'll probably see a few of them there, but it's not about MakerFaire proper. These all fall in the $1500 to $2500 price range.
First up is Makerbot's Replicator 2. There is some controversy around this one, because it's a mix of open source technology under the GPL, and some new technology that's very likely not open source, which allows for a much higher print quality. The open source 3D printer advocates are concerned that it violates the GNU General Public License. The open source technology is primarily the work of Adrian Bowyer who started the RepRap project, and he's given (unenthusiastic) permission to Makerbot to use it.
One of the RepRap enthusiasts is my friend Jeff, who will have a table at MakerFaire this year to show off the printer that has occupied two or three years of his nights and weekends. I like Jeff and I think he'll probably not be too happy with Makerbot's decision to include closed-source technology. But the step up in quality for the price is pretty appealing for a non-GPL-purist like myself. I don't worry about running GPL software on closed-source laptops, after all.
Second is the FORM1 from some Media Lab folks. I don't know much about these folks or their history, but the Media Lab has been at the cutting edge of high-end 3D printing for a couple of decades now, so they've probably got something pretty interesting. I think their raw material is a liquid rather than the long plastic spaghetti sticks used by most other affordable machines (based on one photo on their Kickstarter page). This is the most expensive of the lot, price currently listing as $2500.
Third is the UP!Plus from 3D Printing Systems. Their output doesn't look as nice as the Replicator 2 or the FORM1, but they are at the more affordable end.
What's cool about all these printers and some other new ones is that the user friendliness and quality of output are improving rapidly in recent years. Before long, these things will be popping up in homes, dorm rooms, high schools, and the local mall.
Makerfaire NYC 2012 is this weekend, and I'll be there to checkout 3D printers, microcontroller boards, art installations, and whatever else is around, and I'll blog about what I see.