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Bre Pettis: 3D Printing's First Celebrity

Bre Pettis: 3D Printing's First Celebrity
Photograph by Joi Ito

Bre Pettis looks like a throwback. He’s got an Elvis Presley-meets-Buddy Holly thing going on with his chunky sideburns, thick-rimmed black glasses, and sculpted salt-and-pepper hair. He talks a bit yesteryear, too, in that he’s abundantly polite and laid back to the point of being folksy. How odd then, that he seems to live in the future.

Pettis, 39, runs MakerBot Industries, which produces the world’s most popular consumer 3D printers. The latest MakerBot machine—the Replicator—takes up about as much space as a small microwave. It receives 3D images from a computer and then sets to work turning them into real objects by melting plastic and squirting it out of a nozzle. The Replicator lays one layer of super-thin plastic on top of another until the object—a toy castle, an LED flashlight, a Windsor chair—is done.