Friday 27 April 2018

Video: Asda 3D printer builds mini versions of people

A mini version of yourself is not what you would usually pick up on your weekly shop,. But some say building products from scratch is the future of retail.

Asda, Britain's number two retailer, is offering customers a chance to be scanned and made into a detailed miniature figurine, using a 3D printer.

Having your whole body scanned takes between two to three minutes, with a small hand held machine recording images at a speed of 15 frames per second.

Asda's Head of Personalisation, Phil Stout, said the machine reads colour as well as geometry.

“The scanner is so sophisticated that it picks up details such as belt buckles, shoe detail, wedding rings and all the detail of the colour,” he said.

After the scan, the image is processed by a computer and sent for printing with coloured ceramic fluid. Each personalised figure takes around eight hours to produce.

Scanning slots were fully booked on the first trial day, with some customers travelling miles to get one. But, even with the short trial, Asda said its uses were already becoming clear.

According to Mr Stout, “An older gentleman came in earlier and his wife is in a care home, so he doesn't get to see his wife that often. He wanted to do a scan to give to his wife as a present. I thought that was very touching'.

3D printing is increasingly used in the industrial arena but Asda believes it the first supermarket to offer this service on a large scale – and relatively cheaply too at just £40 (€47) per figure.

Asda's retail director Mark Ibbotson said seeing the technology pioneered in the US by Walmart opened his eyes to the possibilities the technology can bring.

“In Feburary I visited the Walmart head office in Arkansaw and saw 3D printing and some of the products – jewellery, phone cases, several different things – and was really thrilled by it. The applications were so numerous'.

Asda's parent company Walmart will also be watching to see how the trial works out in the UK. But shoppers hoping for an unusual Christmas gift will be disappointed as they will not be rolling out the service until the new year. And only then if the trial is a success.

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