Tuesday, July 15, 2014

3D-Printing going from Boys to Men

Compiled by Paul Chen

As I was checking my Facebook feeds today, I saw something in Polish about Home Depot blah blah blah 3Dprinter.  That caught my attention for some reason.  I started to google the stories connected with it.  And sure enough Home Depot, the guys with the big orange sign and smells like sawdust inside has stepped into the 3D printing market. 

Starting today, do-it-yourselfers in California, Illinois and New York can get a closer look at MakerBot's printing and scanning products via merchandising displays within the select store locations. Trained staff will be on hand to give consumers printing demonstrations and 3D printed keepsakes.

It is even part of their online inventory.  Don’t believe me? Click here! What does it all mean? 

“It’s a pilot for us to test a potential disruptive technology, and to make sure we are on the forefront of a new innovative product,” Joe Downey, an online merchant at Atlanta-based Home Depot, said in an interview.

MakerBot’s partnership with Home Depot is a “step into the mainstream,” said Bre Pettis, chief executive officer of Brooklyn, New York-based MakerBot. “Mom, dad, contractors, interior designers -- we’re looking forward to blowing their minds and making them MakerBot lovers.”
As the home-improvement field faces increased competition from specialist retailers and e-commerce, new technology will become a more important way for stores to differentiate themselves, said Jocelyn Phillips, an IBISWorld analyst.

By showcasing 3D printing in a DIY retail environment, the companies said they hope to educate everyone from builders, architects and contractors to designers, landscapers and general consumers on the benefits of 3D-printing technology. 

MakerBot's consumer-grade 3D printer is the MakerBot Replicator Mini, which costs $1,375 and can print objects as large as 3.9 x 3.9 x 4.9 inches with layers as thin as 200 microns. However, it's worth noting that other 3D printers such as the $499 Da Vinci 1 printer or the $999 Cube 3 have a layer resolution of 100 microns or lower.
Home Depot is also selling the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer, a $2,899 device capable of building objects up to 9.9 x 7.8 x 5.9 inches, with a layer resolution of 100 microns; and the MakerBot Replicator Z18, a prosumer and small business printer with a relatively huge build size of 12 x 12 x 18 inches, that costs $6,499.
In addition to 3D printers, Home Depot will also sell the $799 MakerBot Digitizer scanner, which can scan physical objects up to 8 x 8 x 8 inches, in order to make 3D digital models that can then be 3D printed.
In New York, the two Home Depots with 3D printing installations are at 40 West 23rd Street and 980 3rd Avenue. In California, the Home Depots are located in the cities Emeryville, East Palo Alto, San Carlos, Los Angeles, West Hills and Huntington Beach. In Illinois, three of the Home Depots are located in Chicago, and a fourth in Napierville.
The 3-D printing industry is still in its early stages and will need people to become educated on how to use software to design objects, said Tim Shepherd, an analyst at research firm Canalys in the U.K.
“Ten years from now, it will be quite common for people to have 3-D printers in their homes,” he said.
The consumer market for 3-D printing will reach $600 million in 2017, up from $70 million to $80 million last year, according to Kenneth Wong, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. in San Francisco.
For retailers, the emerging market presents a double-edged sword. If customers create their own supplies and components at home, there’s less need to order something from a store.
Home Depot and MakerBot say they’re not worried about that.
“You can’t use it as a hammer,” Pettis said. Only certain materials can be printed in the MakerBot machine -- metal cannot -- and customers will still have to go to the store to buy the materials for the printer.
The 3-D printing technology also isn’t as far along as consumers may think, Canalys’s Shepherd said. It takes about an hour to print one chess piece, he said.

“There’s a perception in the public mindset that 3-D printing is like what they see in ‘Star Trek,’” Shepherd said. “If that’s the idea they have, they’ll be disappointed.”

The main point is that 3D printing has come a long way from being a science project of nerds into a something that can be a common part of people’s homes and offices.   I agree with the experts above that one should not expect miracles with such emerging technology.  However, remember the old dot-matrix printers from the 80’s.  Now we are printing photographs that can rival any photographic paper, 3D models, circuit boards and for God’s sake PIZZA!  So somewhere down the road, the stuff that you see in Star Trek: The Next Generation might become a reality.

Thank you for reading another one of my posts done just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons up top and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23 If you haven’t done it already, please like my fan page by clicking here See you next time!


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