When the news broke last month that Makerbot 3D Printers had secured an official local distributor in Rectron, we got pretty excited.

That’s because up until that point, anyone wanting a Makerbot for their home or business projects would have had to go through the rigours of importing it from the U.S. themselves and hassle with support if anything went wrong with the unit. With Rectron as the official distie, stock availability wouldn’t be an issue (the company carries stock of a wide range of printers and consumables) and support would be carried out on a local basis.

Better than this, 3D printers would finally become broadly available to the public through a retailer. And according to the distributor, that first retailer customers is Dion Wired.

It’s an interesting turn of events, as Dion Wired earlier this year tinkered around with the concept of stocking Makerbot, when it imported the units itself and made it available on its website. With Rectron in the picture, customers will be able to visit Dion Wired stores and get their 3D printer fix, not only in terms of the physical hardware but genuine Makerbot consumables – the PLA filament rolls used by the Makerbot printers.

Dion Wired stores across the country – Woodmead, Nicolway, Colonade, Canal Walk and Gateway – will be stocking the entry-level version of the printers, namely the Makerbot Mini and Rectron says that stockholding will arrive in the retailers stores by mid-December. The full range of Makerbot 3D printers, including the Makerbot Replicator, 2x and the other higher end models will apparently also be available via Dion Wired’s online store within the same timeframe.

In terms of cost, the printers are a little more pricey than other models of homegrown and locally assembled 3D printers. That said, the Makerbots tend to be much better looking than competitors and wouldn’t look out-of-place in a high-tech lounge or computer room. By comparison to the price tag for Markerbots sold in the U.S., local units sold via Rectron’s channel are between 10% and 20% more expensive. That can apparently be chalked up to import duties, support costs and other factors.

What are we talking in terms of cost? The Makerbot Mini will be available for somewhere in the region of R16 000 inclusive of VAT, while the PLA filament will range between R200 for a small spool of natural PLA and R670 for a small spool of glow in the dark, coloured PLA.

Why would you want to pay so much more for the Makerbot Mini (aside from aesthetics of course)?

The Makerbot Mini comes with a bunch of cool refinements, like a built-in camera which allows the user to monitor their print job from a smartphone or tablet from another room of their house or even remotely (providing they know how to set up port forwarding on their router) and an extruder head that attaches and detaches with four tiny magnets, which will allow for the Mini to print with a variety of different materials in the years to come, by simply changing out the extruder.

They are the proverbial Rolls Royce of 3D printers. Whether or not that will matter in the price-conscious South African market is right now, a mystery.

Brett is the big cheese at Hypertext Media. He's been covering the technology industry for so long, he's seen old technology be 'respun' as the next big thing one too many times. He started Hypertext in 2002 and quite frankly hasn't looked back (although he often longs for the days when a steady salary, sick days and leave were a given). Publications in his stable include htxt.africa; DailyFive (http://www.dailyfive.tv); Connect; Tarsus Channel and GirlGuides (http://www.girlguides.co.za). He also hosts the ZA Tech Show (http://www.zatech.co.za), does a monthly tech column for Sawubona and writes the odd gadget piece for a magazine here and there. Currently uses: 11-inch Macbook Air, iPhone 5, Blackberry Z10, iPad Mini, Nexus 7, Kindle Paperwhite, Marley TTR Headphones, Xbox360, PS3, Nintendo 3DS.