Over the past five years, 3D printers have gone from expensive industrial equipment to hobbyist tools that can be had for as little as a few hundred dollars. 3D printing has captured the attention of schools, designers, and companies like UPS, which began offering printing service in its stores last August. And between the Stratasys-owned MakerBot and enthusiasts with homemade RepRap printers, dozens of small teams — several of which were at CES 2014’s 3D Printer Tech Zone — are racing to be the ones who take the technology mainstream.

These companies’ entry-level printers have different names, different designs, and different price points, but they all share an audience: interested consumers who have relatively little technical knowledge and don’t want to take the jump on a rig that costs several thousand dollars. "We really want to focus on the consumer segment, or maybe a professional who just wants one on their desk," said Solidoodle’s Yahea Abdullah — a description that was echoed up and down the aisles of the tech zone. Solidoodle has a strong claim on the territory: in 2011, it became one of the first companies to market a cheap (initially $699), fully-assembled printer. Abdullah estimates the company has sold between 8,000 and 10,000 machines since then — for comparison, MakerBot sold 22,000 units between 2009 and mid-2013.