As part of a freshly-launched pilot program, MakerBot –the premier purveyor of 3D printer technology– is bringing its popular line of Replicator 3D printers to shelves at a select number of brick-and-mortar Home Depot stores. The printers have been available through Home Depot’s online store for a few months already, but now the company is bringing them to physical shelves at about a dozen different locations across California, Illinois, and New York.
Starting today, this handful of retail locations carry the latest generation of the Replicator, as well as the new Replicator Mini and MakerBot’s Digitizer 3D scanner. Furthermore, in addition to selling the printers, Home Depot will also host elaborate kiosks (like the one pictured above) to help demonstrate 3D printing and how it works. Shops will have trained staff on hand to showcase the capabilities of the technology to curious customers, and hand out little 3D printed doodads in hopes of clinching a sale.
At this point it’s hard to tell if the move will pay off for MakerBot or Home Depot, but even if they don’t sell too many printers, at the very least it’ll help to expose 3D printing technology to a new demographic — the DIY home improvement crowd. MakerBot printers are already available at a number of different retail stores, but up until now they’ve typically been confined to office supply stores.
This very well might be the kind of exposure 3D printers need to become mainstream, as the technology arguably has far more applications in your home than it does within an office environment. Need a special pipe fitting that’s not in stock? A replacement cupboard hinge? Just download the plans and print yourself one.
It seems a bit counterintuitive that Home Depot is selling a device that will one day eliminate the need for people to shop at their stores, but 3D printing isn’t going to completely replace brick-and-mortar stores anytime soon, so in the interim, this new pilot program is likely a win for both parties.