If you ever wondered what the next-generation FedEx or OfficeMax might look like then the new 2,500 square-foot iMakr store in Central London might be it.
The bright loft space is filled with a variety of 3D printers, like the $1,000 Solidoodle and the Makerbot Replicator 2, costing close to $3000. There are hands-on workshops where curious shoppers can learn more about 3D printing, and, if the mood takes you, there’s a booth where you can make a 3D scan of yourself.
The store also offers 3D printing services – drop off your CAD files and have them printed up and shipped to you within 48 hours.
The iMakr store follows in the footsteps of the Manhattan-based Makerbot outlet, but differs from its predecessor in that it sells a wide range of brands and strives to provide retail opportunities for people who want to sell their own ‘things’ in the store.
iMakr director and founder Sylvain Preumont says he doesn’t want the store to be just a retail outlet, but also a showcase for 3D art and design.
“We really want to make it where it is not only a store where you buy things but also where you go to understand things and discover things,” Preumont said in a recent interview with 3D Focus.
iMakr already has an online store where customers can order a variety of printers and accessories, but Preumont wanted to open a physical location to allow the public to experience 3D printing in real-life rather than just seeing it on the internet or reading about it in a magazine.
“3D printing is about real people printing real things in their real life; not just about something you see on the TV about printing a house or a gun,” Preumont says.
The French-born Preumont, who first got interested in 3D printing through architecture, hopes that the physical store will serve to empower and engage consumers in a new way, allowing them to touch and experience 3D printing technology and objects as well as talk to experts on-site, rather than relying entirely on online resources and purchasing.
Will 3D printing stores take off?
For the moment, this technology remains pretty clunky and its appeal to the mainstream consumer is limited. Designers and engineers might consider buying a 3D printer and they might also see the beauty in plastic prototypes, but Average Joe will need some more persuading.
Yet if the idea behind the iMakr store is to educate then it’s serving its purpose, and education may be the first step towards a sale.
Call me shallow, but I’m hoping one day soon I’ll be able to walk into one of these stores, scan myself, design a personalized item—maybe a nice pair of shoes—and then wait while my “purchase” is printed out. Now that would be a mainstream hit.