Pick a printer.
Credit: Cubify

As a reflection of how popular 3D printing is, hit up this link and prepare to be stunned by the sheer number of 3D printer models that are already on the market – there are literally dozens and dozens of them. Confounding the selection process is the fact that there are several different types of printers, printing materials, and potential compatibility issues, so research is necessary. (Online gadget shop Dynamism.com, which has created a dedicated boutique for devices using this technology, offers a 3D printer buying guide here.) Practically speaking, though, there are only a few relevant choices that are easy, cheap, and reliable for an amateur to use. "Beginners tend to like the Up Mini, which looks and feels like a more expensive device," says Dynamism.com CEO and founder Douglas Krone, "but it's super easy to use." Other good and affordable models include Afinia's H Series (from $1,600); Cubify's Cube or Cube X (from $1,300); or MakerBot's Replicator 2 or Replicator 2X (from $2,200). Bre Pettis says his company's first printer (it's on its fourth version now) opened the doors to the market. "Even five years ago, it was $10,000 at a minimum for a 3D printer," he says. "We are constantly surprised now by what ordinary people can do to have an impact on the world by having a 3D printer."