Deezmaker store’s $600 Bukobot 3D printer.
California’s first 3D printer retail store opened this past weekend. That brings the grand total of 3D printer retail stores in America (and maybe the world) to two.
Bre Petttis’ MakerBot store in New York opened on September 20 to much fanfare in the maker and tech communities. That store sells MakerBot’s own Replicator 2 to the tune of $2,200. Meanwhile, Diego Porqueras’ store will sell his own recently Kickstarted “Bukobot” for just $600.
Various online 3D printer retailers have been around for some time, but these two stores are the first brick-and-mortar versions. Some 3D printing-related companies have already raised decent amounts of venture capital in recent months.
With the addition of a California store, the 3D printing community may just be poised to start to inch out of its hobbyist roots and gain much more widespread acceptance. This event seems awfully similar to December 8, 1975, the day that the Byte Shop opened up. That store, Silicon Valley’s first, later became the debut retail outlet for the Apple I.
“These are like the early personal computer stores,” wrote Mark Frauenfelder, the editor-in-chief of Make magazine, in an e-mail sent to Ars.
“The difference is that in the 1970s, there was no Web to publicize the machines, so they were necessary. Today, a video of a 3D printer is a very effective marketing tool. I don’t know if retail stores for 3D printers will take off, honestly. These stores will help make non-nerds aware of 3D printers, but will non-nerds buy 3D? Maybe they will!”
Paul Terrell, the founder of the Byte Shop, told Ars that he was intrigued, but wasn’t convinced that the public would embrace it.
“I think it is important for these stores to be out there—I think there is a definite path,” he said. “My take on it [is] that it would be a great franchising opportunity. Somebody should be out franchising these stores. There’s going to have to be a show-me aspect. That’s what you’ve got to do here. There’s going to be a real need for these stores to be out there and they can’t be all mom-and-pop, and it’s going to take time for the big companies [to get on board.]”
Location, location, location
Porqueras told Ars that in addition to selling the Bukobot, he’ll make other companies’ models available, too.
“It’s going to showcase printers so people can see and touch and feel how the printers work,” he said. “There’s a lot of demand for this in Los Angeles, but there’s no place where they can go to buy parts.”
Porqueras acknowledged that no one will be able to buy a Bukobot—or any other 3D printer—for at least another month, as he ramps up production to fulfill all the Kickstarter and other pre-orders that he’s taken already.
The store—like many retail shops in Los Angeles—is nestled in a strip mall. But this one likely has potential customers built-in: it is situated in a prime location in Pasadena, a 10-minute walk to Pasadena City College, 20 minute walk north of the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) campus, and a 15 minute drive from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Still waiting for that killer app
Of course, while 3D printing has seen a lot of excitement among the geek set for some time now, there hasn’t yet been an easy-to-use, cheap, killer application. After all, while the Apple I was released in 1976, it took three years for its first killer app, VisiCalc (a spreadsheet), to really drive sales.
For the moment, Porqueras declined to give any revenue projections, but said that based on his projections, he was confident that the store would last “at least a year.”
“3D printing has very broad applications, from making toys at home to [potentially] printing out kidneys,” Porqueras added. “There’s a million things you can do with a 3D printer. I think anybody trying to get into the market now will have a chance of surviving.”
Via ars technica