3D printing industry

3D printers hit retail stores

3D printers in retail stores

With the popularity of 3D printers steadily increasing, more retailers carry them in stock. Staples, UPS, Amazon, Home Depot, and Sam’s Club are among the companies adding 3D printers to their inventory. The MakerBot Replicator Mini compact 3D printer will sell in 300 Sam’s Clubs across the nation as part of an initiative to get more people interested in 3D printing.

The Makerbo Mini - now available at Amazon.com (source: Makerbot)
The Makerbot Mini – now available at Amazon.com (source: Makerbot)

The idea is to gain consumer support by making 3D printers seems less futuristic and daunting. By adding them to retail stores where other electronic goods sell, manufacturers intend to increase awareness and generate interest in 3D printing. MakerBot does its part by offering classes, lectures, and customer support. Other 3D printer manufacturers aim to do the same. The LulzBot TZ 5 printer received rave reviews for its customer care.

MakerBot laid off 100 members of its staff and closed its three retail locations including its flagship store. This was after it failed to hit growth targets set by Stratasys, the 3D printing giant who bought the company for $400 million in 2013.

MakerBot was founded in 2009 and was the first company to make 3D printing a household name. The CupCake CNC and Thing-O-Matic made 3D printers affordable and easy for consumers to use. The Replicator machine was the company’s shining invention. It came out in 2012.

It was the company’s vision to see 3D printers in every home. Sadly enough, many MakerBot workers won’t see that day as employees of the company. They may, however, see their hard work selling the idea of 3D printing pan out if big box retailers push 3D printers.

With 3D printers becoming more mainstream, it’ll be interesting to see what people come up. Children, in particular, have opportunities to learn 3D printing more now than ever before. Parents and teachers can now drop by their local Sam’s Club or Staples to purchase a printer. More importantly, if they print their own parts, households and schools can easily add additional printers to their inventory.