I took a trip to Manhattan to visit this first ever 3D printing store. It is called a “pop-up” because it is only here for the christmas season, and serves as a trial. Given the reception, there were many interested people not in the know, who were mainly curious. However, based on sales (or lack of clearcut sales) I’m not sure a 3D printing store is quite ready for primetime, but it seems close. Nevertheless, jewelery workshops sold out and training seems to be ready for primetime.
The store had a few sections.
- One area was dedicated to showing off examples, which were identical to the shapeways displays at maker faires around the world – the point was to sell shapeways services, and the 3DEA store employees were trained by them, even though they don’t service them exclusively.
- Another section of the store had exotic printouts, almost all done with objet and other high-end printers. In particular, one printout of a chair was designed artistically to look like it was made with a 10 mm printer nozzle, even thought it was printed painstakingly with an inkjet printer.
- Another section of the store had a zoo of ultimakers for demo purposes, including a very large printer.
- Yet another section demo’d many UP! mini (personal portable) printer, which I found had better quality than all other printers by far. This seems to be due to rigid design, small nozzle, and software optimizations. There was also a “black box” system that looked like a mini stratasys.
- In another section, there was an adult only booth. Here there were 3D printable sex toys. I have to say, they did not look ready for primetime because the majority were not food safe plastic, but one was made of a fairly flimsy silicone mold.
- In yet another section, you could scan objects for 3d printing.
- Overall there wasn’t much emphasis on sales, few price signs, but some toys were being sold to kids that didn’t seem worth a penny.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed my trip to 3DEA and glad this kind of store exists. I think some day it may fit in all the malls in the U.S. as a kind of build-a-bear take-a-photo type store that will grow and cater to more niches over time, and quickly.