3D Printing, the white-hot technology that’s promising to transform everything from car repair to bio medicine, is now moving into the most mundane of locations: your local Staples. A European unit of Staples and Ireland-based 3D printing company Mcor have announced plans to bring 3D printing to a handful of European Staples stores in early 2013, and promise to roll it out to other countries shortly after that.
Dubbed “Staples Easy 3D,” the new service is pretty straightforward. Customers upload CAD or other 3D-printable files to Staples Office Center. Staples prints them on one of Mcor‘s Iris 3D color printers. Customers can then either pick up their 3D-printed objects at the store, or have them shipped to them. “Customized parts, prototypes, art objects, architectural models, medical models and 3D maps are items customers need today, in a more affordable and more accessible manner,” said Wouter Van Dijk, president of the Staples Printing Systems Division in Europe.
Access to 3D printing services at a local Staples could be a shortcut for consumers anxious to get started in 3D printing. Companies like MakerBot currently sell home 3D printers for roughly $2,300, a price tag likely considered out of the reach of most consumers. Mcor executives acknowledge, though, that 3D printing is following the well-worn path of 2D printing: better equipment, more accessibility and much lower prices. Even so, they don’t think consumers will have their own 3D printers in the short term. “Until that time, consumers will look to service bureaus,” said Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Conor MacCormack.
It’s also unlikely consumers will have access to an in-home, full-color 3D-printer any time soon. Mcor’s Iris reportedly prints in more than 1 million colors.
3D printing service bureaus is not a new idea. U.S.-based Shapeways lets consumers design 3D objects and then have the service print and sent them to their homes. On the other hand, many consumers have probably never heard of Shapeways, but good luck running into anyone who couldn’t point you to the nearest Staples.
The announcement, which was made at Euromold in Germany (“World Fair for Moldmaking and Tooling, Design and Application Development”) did not include details on how long it will take to print each object or, more importantly, price per print. Our guess it’ll cost a fair bit more than a sheaf of bright white paper.
Mashable has reached out to Staples’ U.S. division for comment on the announcement and details on service availability outside of Europe and will update this post with their comments.