“This is like something from Star Trek, but real.”

MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis says this sort of stuff often, and he’s usually right. The things he and MakerBot have created seem ripped from science fiction. And the MakerBot 3D Photo Booth, MakerBot’s latest invention, is no exception.

Powered by Direct Dimensions’ ShapeShot technology, the photo booth plugs into MakerBot’s 3D printing operation. Visitors to its New York City store can buy 3D-printed models of their own faces. “It’s a new kind of portraiture,” Pettis said at a press event earlier today.

The photo-taking process, which takes roughly five minutes, creates the sort of models shown in the picture above. Once customers take the photos, they place their orders with MakerBot, which prints the models and ships them out. Timeline for the entire process? Four to six weeks (which, admittedly, is kind of a long time).

While the whole notion has a certain degree of straightforward novelty, MakerBot’s intentions are clearly larger than just portraits.

“Instead of buying the things they want, people will just make them,” Pettis said.

If you want to understand MakerBot, it’s best to start with that idea: Devices like the recently announced Replicator 2 are all about giving consumers the power to design and create by themselves the products that they want. Call it complete consumer autonomy.

Of course they have to do one thing first: Buy a 3D printer. And that’s where MakerBot steps in.

While we aren’t anywhere near the point where consumers can take and print 3D portraits in their own homes, Pettis told me that MakerBot sees its 3D Photo Booth as a key move in drumming up interest in an industry that’s still in its infancy.

‘This is the first step in delivering our dream of replication,” he said.

Photos: Ricardo Bilton/VentureBeat