Maplin to sell first 3D printer for use in the home
Priced at £700 (€813) , the Velleman K8200 will allow customers to print anything they want, provided it is below 20cm³. For example, if you want a new mobile phone case or lose a chess piece, you can simply print another one.
3D printers take a virtual model designed on a computer and then layer 0.5mm-thick slices of plastic to build up an object. A mobile phone case would take about 30 minutes to print.
Oliver Meakin, Maplin's commerical director, said he anticipated families who were interested in technology buying the device, as well as some schools. "I hope some children will be using this rather than playing video games," he said.
He added that the typical Maplin customer would enjoy building the printer, which comes in kit form and takes up to 10 hours to assemble.
The plastic comes in black, white, blue, red, orange, green, yellow and pink, but you can only use one colour at a time while printing. According to Maplin's website: "If you want your creation to be multicoloured you can print it in separate pieces and attach them together later. You can't swap the cartridge in the middle of a print."
Replacement cartridges cost £30 (€34) for 1kg of the plastic resin, and the printer itself is the size of a mid-range laser printer.
Mr Meakin added, "Until now, the cost of 3D printers limited their use to the professional market. However, the Velleman K8200 kit has enabled us to introduce 3D printing to the mass market.
“We selected this model primarily because it offers high performance printing at an affordable price, making it accessible to our customers. In addition, it requires assembly before use, which fits with the ‘build it yourself’ ethos so central to Maplin’s heritage. Part of the enjoyment lies in putting the kit together, so users are not just investing in a great product, but an experience too."
The technology has been hailed as the future of manufacturing but previously only been sold to professional printing companies.
However, it has also been hit by controversy. In May, the US State Department ordered that blueprints for a 3D-printable handgun be removed from the internet. Since the gun was made of plastic, it would be undetectable by security scanners.
Maplin hopes the 3D printer, which can be pre-ordered now, proves popular. In May, the retailer revealed that pre-tax profits fell from £29.9m to £21.3m as a consequence of a £40m drive to revamp stores and open new sites.