We’re about to learn whether 3D printing will ever have mainstream appeal because Staples is now offering both an in-store printing service as well as actual 3D printers. The cheapest printer costs $1,300, which is fairly steep, but shipping is free. Shoppers can now also walk into stores and ask for the employees to help them to design and print objects on the spot.
Even more interestingly, in Netherlands there is a Staples website where people can upload their 3D designs, place them in certain categories and tag them with keywords. The MyEasy3D service can be used by creative people to set up their own 3D printing retailing shops where consumers can browse and buy their designs. Presumably, Staples is going to introduce the service in the U.S. market at some point if the Dutch trial goes well.
So how captivating are the first 3D design stores? It’s pretty eccentric, as you would expect from quirky Dutch people. There are Celtic skulls, Morris Mini Minor Mark 1959 miniature car and extremely generic looking jewelry. Nothing so far seems compelling, wildly original or worth ordering from a 3D printing shop rather than some other online retailing website.
What it all boils to is the 3D printing industry is still looking for commercial hooks that are going to really engage consumers. Let’s see how the New York run of Staples’ 3D printing service goes this spring, because it could be the start of 3D printing’s big breakthrough.