The world's largest home improvement store is taking a step towards the future.
Home Depot began selling desktop 3D printers from select locations on Monday. The MakerBot Desktop 3D Printers will be available at 12 stores in California, Illinois, and New York. The stores will have kiosks where interested shoppers can see demonstrations and get advice about the 3D printers. Home Depot has been selling MakerBot printers from its website for the past three months, but now both companies want to take the test program to the chain's brick-and-mortar stores.
Makerbot has three retail locations, in New York, Boston, and Greenwich, Conn., but the Home Depot partnership brings 3D printing to a much wider in-store clientele.
In case you're wondering, a 3D printer is a printer that makes three dimensional objects out of plastic. The printers use a digital file to create objects through successive layering, allowing do-it-yourself tinkerers to create plastic objects at home. Using a 3D printer, a man in Kansas created a prosthetic hand for a 9-year-old boy for only $60.
"Home Depot is a great partner to go out into the consumer market," Jenny Lawton, president of MakerBot, says in an interview. Home Depot contacted MakerBot earlier this year about selling their products in stores. "We want to make it easier for people to innovate and introduce them to the world of 3-D printing. [Home Depot] gives us a partner that wants to bring innovation and creativity to a large group of people."
Joe Downey, merchant at The Home Depot, said in a press release, “We are continually looking to bring the latest innovation to our customers and are excited to offer MakerBot 3-D Printing products in select stores and on homedepot.com. MakerBot 3D printers are yet another great technology that can serve particular needs of specific customers.”
MakerBot will be selling its Mini and Replicator models at Home Depot. If you're looking to bring one of these home, the coffee pot-sized Mini will run you around $1,300. The Replicator is just under $3,000 and is the size of a microwave.
With these printers you can make plastic replacement parts, party gifts, and cases. The initial setup for the 3D printers is close to that of a normal ink printer – as easy as plugging everything to a computer and downloading the software. Lawton said there are thousands of designs online and the hardest decision is deciding what to make.
For those who are interested in buying a 3D printer, but don't live in California, New York, or Illinois, don't worry. You can buy a 3D printer from anywhere on Home Depot's website. The home improvement store is also selling the MakerBot filaments needed to print.
Kenneth Wong, an analyst at Citigroup, told Bloomberg that the consumer market for 3D printers was $70 to $80 million last year. He estimates that by 2017, the market could reach $600 million.
Lawton said, "People think 3D printing is something only geeks do and we are taking it mainstream."