The Third Dimension
3-D printers are already popular abroad. Look for them to start showing up stateside soon.
Imagine going up to a kiosk, scanning some information and a photo and walking away with a 3-D model of what you designed— be it a lamp, bracelet or even a toy figurine in your likeness. If several innovative technology companies have their way, these machines will be up and running in malls and retail stores across the U.S. by next year.
Already last year, the Dubai-based company Precise Concepts offered a service called This Is Me, which sold 3-D scanned and printed copies of one’s self, in the Mall of the Emirates. Not long after, Ideaz 3D put up a kiosk at the Galerias Mall Sonora in Mexico that offered a similar service, selling 15 cm figurines for around $14.
Expect the craze to hit American shores soon.
Arden Rosenblatt, CEO and co-founder of PieceMaker Technologies Inc., creators of one of the U.S.’s first viable 3-D printers for retailers, believes that in the next 12-18 months, 3-D printers will be as much a regular part of malls as a Cinnabon or iPhone case kiosk.
PieceMaker has been piloting at local stores in Pittsburgh in 2014 and is planning to implement a more intense rollout come this holiday season—with placement in malls expected to be a big part of it. “I think within a year, it’s something that will be available a lot more, and start popping up in the bigger cities,” Rosenblatt says. “We wanted to make sure we had a great product and test before going wide, and we have a long waiting list of stores that want to take part. The culmination of our work is ramping up.”
The factory-in-a-store model is great for businesses that want to take advantage of 3-D printing without getting into the complexities of the printing technology. PieceMaker is planning a shared revenue model in which the company and the retailer share revenue, with very little upfront cost to the retailer. Consumers will pay about $5-$20 for items available.
“With our kiosks, consumers can take templates of toys, game pieces, wearables, key-chains and customize with colors, text and shape to create a truly one-of-a-kind item,” Rosenblatt says. “The file gets sent to a 3-D printer and they can watch it be created. And it only takes about 20 minutes per item.”