The centers–opened inside the Fifth Avenue and Studio City stores in the last month. Staples offers assistance from 3-D printing experts and eventually plans more such centers.
“Part of our brand is to help small businesses market themselves,” says Damien Leigh, Staples’ senior vice president of business services. “3-D printing is an emerging technology, and most small-business customers have read about it in the media but don’t know how to access it. So, we’re creating a market for 3-D printing as a service–helping them understand the process and how they can apply it to their business, then giving them the means to design and print sophisticated renderings, without having to make major capital investments.”
The 3D printing marketplace has opened up around the world, thanks to declining costs of 3-D printers and services, increasing user-friendliness of the technology, and rising popularity of the DIY/Maker movement and hackerspaces. Staples decision for an overseas test first had less to do with the exploding European 3-D printing market than an opportunity presenting itself with MCor Technologies. Other conglomerates are attempting similar approaches. For example, The UPS Store is collaborating with Stratasys for an on-site 3-D printing service in Israel.
However, Staples is the first major retailer to offer consumer and prosumer 3-D printers, which it does online and in 150 of its 1,500 U.S. stores. They range in price from $1,300 to $5,000, and printing sizes from 5.5 to 12 cubic inches in a range of materials: ABS (petroleum-based plastic), PLA (biodegradable polymer), castable material for 3D Printing dental and jewelry-making molds, and gypsum-based powder. In addition to entry-level machines, the experience center provides access to a $60,000 professional full-color 3-D printer.