As much as 3D printers have evolved in their short history, they still tend to look like they were made for hobbyists, by hobbyists. You'll see boxy frames, sometimes with exposed parts -- and you may have only limited help if something goes awry. Solidoodle isn't happy with these intimidating designs, so it's launching a fifth-generation peripheral (the Press) that's kinder to first-time users. The 512-cubic-inch printer comes in a friendlier, enclosed design that looks more like a mini fridge than the raw machinery of Solidoodle's previous models. The spool is protected to prevent plastic filament jams, and the printing bed automatically calibrates itself -- you won't have to adjust it every time it's uneven.
The Press should arrive in September for $599 ($349 in an early sale), which is just a tad more accessible to rookies than its $699 predecessor. Don't worry if you're a fan of the expert-oriented second- and third-generation 3D printers, though; the company hasn't forgotten about you. It's releasing small (Workbench Apprentice) and large (Workbench, shown below) printers that preserve the open chassis and let you modify the innards to your heart's content. They're also slightly more advanced. While the Press has a plastic body and single extruder, both the $799 Workbench Apprentice and $1,299 Workbench switch to metal frames and add one more extruder. If any of these more industrial-looking printers strike your fancy, they'll ship at roughly the same time as the Press.