3D printers used to be something like unicorns. Mythic, rarely seen beasts that not everyone could believe really existed. Improvements in technology and ease of use surrounding the technology has increasingly brought the fable out of rumor and into the everyday lives of consumers.
Lowe’s is the latest company to roll out a 3D printing pilot program. Rather than the in-store efforts of companies such as Staples, for example, where customers need to bring in CAD designs, Lowe’s is attempting to harness the full creative power offered by additive manufacturing (AM). The pilot store located in Mountain View, CA, offers customers a chance to design their own pieces, parts and gadgets.
“The home is very personal and 3D printing gives homeowners unprecedented access to build items that reflect their individuality,” said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs. “Until now, it’s been hard for the average consumer to benefit from this technology because of the cost and complexity, so we are bringing customers an approachable and affordable customization experience.”
Customers are given the option to design the object of their desire by working with a simple CAD program. Users can edit existing templates, create their very own bespoke design (with employee assistance), or scan an object. Completed designs can then be printed out in a number of different materials, including plastic, stainless steel and gold.
Along with helping customers build (or rebuild) that perfect part for their homes, Lowe’s intends on using the in-store AM systems as a way of increasing the number of home improvement items in each store without actually increasing physical storage space. The company will keep a number of commonly used and easily printed objects on file and simply print them out upon demand.
Lowe’s has entered into the realm of 3D printing thanks to partnerships with companies such as Authentise, CGTrader, and Sculpteo. These partnerships offer Lowe’s instant electronic security and existing digital libraries on which to build its fledging AM business.
“3D printing and scanning are changing the way we produce, deliver and interact with objects,” said Andre Wegner, CEO of Authentise. “We are delighted to have helped Lowe’s create a solution that makes these changes relevant to its customers, while building a scalable platform to support future demand.”
Below you’ll find a video about Lowe’s 3D printing service.