One of the machines we use is the Objet Eden 500. Objet is an Israeli company that makes 3D printers. At Shapeways our White Detail and our Transparant Detail materials are Objet. These materials have a nice smooth finish and are very detailed.
The main issue with them is temperature sensitivity. So we would recomend you didn’t use this material for ashtrays of the like. It does make for very pretty display objects though, such as printed out avatars, real versions of animations and art. The Eden 500
is a printer that you could use in your office. It is more than a metre in length though and about as deep, so it is not quite desktop. Or it might be if your desk was a conferece table, and could hold all 450 kilos of the thing. It doesn’t make as much noise as the industrial machines and it can be re-filled by inserting a cartridge. The build envelope is also large at 50x40x20cm.
If you look inside the machine you can see the large printer head, this moves right and left, forward and back(along the X and Y axes). The build tray is in the middle of the machine. This moves up and down along the Z axis and this is where the printed objects will be put.
I think it looks kind of like a short fat smiley Cylon. It uses UV to cure the object in the machine so it gives off a nice blueish glow as it works. We can only hope that it doesn’t have a plan. Or if it does have a plan that it either involves making personal production a reality or that the plan is a convoluted one.