3D printed nuts and bolts from a MakerBot.
Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement chain, announced the start of a pilot program to sell MakerBots. They are described by the manufacturer as a type of professional-grade 3-D printing machine and will be in a dozen stores following a three-month period of online-only sales. (Video)
The MakerBot printers, which range from a compact $1,375 model to a high-end $2,899 version, went on sale July 14 in Chicago and New York City-area stores, as well as Home Depot locations throughout California.
“As we were thinking about a partnership with MakerBot, we’re always looking for new innovation,” Joe Downey, Home Depot’s online merchant for tools, told HuffPost by phone. “It’s really about bringing about new innovation to customers.”
3-D printers can whip up everything from vagina selfies to handguns, but Home Depot envisions its customers using the MakerBots for decidedly more practical applications.
“Imagine a world where you can 3-D print replacement parts and use 3-D printing as an integral part of design and building work,” MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis said in a statement.
In demonstration kiosks at the 12 pilot locations, Home Depot employees can show customers how to print items like replacement parts and product prototypes, CBS reports.
While a MakerBot can, in theory, churn out many of the same items that people go to Home Depot to buy, the retailer doesn’t seem worried about 3-D printing itself into obsolescence.
“We’re comfortable with the partnership,” Downey said, noting that customers have “economies of scale to consider.” In other words, a MakerBot owner would be unlikely to print all her own screws or bolts for a large project.
Besides, said Pettis of the current fleet of MakerBot printers, “You can’t use it as a hammer.”
Downey said customers typically use the printers for personalization projects, like a Chicago father who Downey said purchased a MakerBot to print custom furniture for his daughter’s dollhouse.
The current generation of 3-D printers are still relatively slow – printing an item the size of a Lego brick can take roughly half an hour – and customers would still need to go to a store to purchase the (often costly) raw materials.
“Ten years from now, it will be quite common for people to have 3-D printers in their homes,” Tim Shepherd, an analyst with the U.K.-based research firm Canalys, told Bloomberg last week.
In addition to Home Depot, companies like Amazon, Staples and Dell have joined the ranks of 3-D printer retailers.
Touted as a “second industrial revolution,” 3-D printing comprises a $3 billion industry that has grown 600 percent in the past decade, Forbes reports.
Via Huffington Post