Fujifilm considers installing thousands of 3D printing kiosks at retailers

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a 3D Printing Vending Machine at Virginia Tech, where students can pop a memory card into the machine and 3D print their model. Now I see that Fujifilm is looking at the idea of creating 3D printing kiosks for the public.

There are already publicly available kiosks that allow you to insert a memory card and instantly print a photo, or other photo-based gift such as a greeting card. Why not leverage these stations and add a 3D printer to the kiosk and let people print some three dimensional products too? A big player in this area is Fjifilm and here’s the company’s Australia’s Michael Mostyn at The Digital Show in Melbourne, speaking with Gizmag:

“What we’re suggesting is that utilizing existing infrastructure, instead of just limiting it to photo gifting products, what if we are able to have a number of predetermined models and provide customers with a personalized 3D gift shop.”

Yes, indeed, why not?

At the show, they demonstrated the idea with a 3D Systems 3D Touch Printer. At this point it’s just a concept, with no timeframe specified. But here’s what I gather from watching the video (begins at minute 1:00). The kiosks will have predetermined templates of items that can be personalized and then 3D printed. For example, Mostyn showed off a candle holder that you can already get at Shapeways.com, which is personalized with user-inputed text, which is then becomes the candle holder wall. He did say that the products would be printed at a fulfillment center and shipped, and not printed right there on the spot. Someday I’m sure they will be, but at this point the printers are simply too slow, to expensive to distribute to thousands of retailers, and frankly would require too much onsite maintenance.

It also sounds like Fujifilm is interested in selling home models of 3D Printers as well. Michael Mostyn continued:

“Fujifilm is also looking to make 3D Printers available for consumer purchase from retailers in the near future, enabling the family and do-it-yourself enthusiasts to produce low cost, high quality finished parts for their projects at home.

“However, consumer printers would not have the capacity to produce all of the customised 3D products that would be available in-store through kiosks or online.”

The limitation on what a home 3D printer owner could print was voiced because the commercial-level printers in the fulfillment centers would be high-end models costing tens of thousands of dollars, where the home 3D printers they would sell would be similar to the less sophisticated home models you see being sold now, probably like the new 3D Systems’ Cube.

Fujifilm is seeing the future clearly, and they are obviously making plans to ride the 3D printing wave, beyond the in-store kiosks:

“This lends itself to a whole range of things – particularly for parts,” says Mostyn. “The longer term goal is to be able to give people the opportunity to create a whole range of different things and have access to the technology that has traditionally been for professionals.”

Sources: Buy-n-Shoot.com and Gizmag.com.