You know Wired editor Chris Anderson's pet idea of the moment that "atoms are the new bits"? At just $US750, MakerBot's CupCake CNC rapid prototyping machine—3D printing with extruded melted ABS plastic—made me think about it.
MakerBot founder Bre Pettis compared the CupCake to the mythical Altair 8800—but you know, for 3D printing. Next on their list is a 3D scanner that'll copy the design of objects so you can skip creating the 3D schematic yourself—turning CupCake into a replicator. We talked a bit about the possibilities of DIY object replication—Cory Doctorow's Printcrime story came up, but for now you're limited to 3D printing objects the size of cupcakes hence the name.
You can buy CupCake fully assembled for $US2500, but that takes part of the fun out of it—putting the $US750 kit together makes for a weekend of awesome. Besides that very nice Empire State Building model—the tip of which was destroyed partly at my behest to show how sturdy the Lego-grade plastic is—the coolest item they'd produced was a custom lens hood for a camera. Why buy parts when you can make them? Here it is in action, making a MakerBot coin: