In a classic Saved by the Bell episode, Violet Bickerstaff (played by one Tori Spelling) inadvertently breaks Screech’s mother’s beloved Elvis statue. The gang has to raise $250 to buy a new one before she returns from her trip to the Heartbreak Hotel. If only they’d been able to just 3D print her a replacement, they never would’ve temporarily lost Hound Dog, the Powers’ family dog.
These days, thanks to Lowe’s and its partnership with Authentise, those with broken family heirlooms can 3D print a replacement version. The company’s Orchard Supply Hardware store in Mountain View, California has a 3D printer that customers can use to make antiques that are no longer in production, as well as customized door handles, wall plates, and other home-improvement accouterments. Experts will be on hand to help customers with all the details of their new cabinet knob, from shape to material and color.
“This is specifically designed not for the 3D printer enthusiast,” Lowe’s Innovation Labs executive director Kyle Nel tells CNBC. “[We] wanted a full service that would allow regular folks to take an idea they had in their head and customize objects in an easy way.” While 3D printers are cropping up more and more in places like maker spaces and even libraries, the Lowe’s approach is to have an expert on hand to make the process seem less intimidating.
If customers choose to make something out of plastic, they can expect to pay between $5 and $20, but those willing to shell out more can get their replicated objects in stainless steel, titanium, or even gold. It’s not quite like waiting around to get a copy of a key made, though. Even the uncomplicated projects take about five hours.
Locals wanting to give the process a try only have six months to do so, and then the experiment ends. Lowe’s says it doesn’t yet plan on bringing 3D printers to other stores, although it could expand the project if it sees enough interest from the public.