Sorry to bust your bubble, but you can’t go to your local Office Depot and buy a Cube off the shelf just yet. Unless you live around Denver that is. Office Depot announced the pilot program last week and the printers have been on display since Monday. Denver is in my neighborhood so I made a visit to the Office Depot on Wynkoop.
The Office Depot on Wynkoop is by far the fanciest Office Depot I’ve been to. “Denver is rich with small businesses, product designers and students interested in designing, printing and manufacturing three-dimensional objects,” said George Hill, Office Depot’s Senior Vice President of Copy and Print Depot. “At Office Depot, we know seeing is believing and we’re excited to bring the 3D printing experience to Denver.”
Entering the store, the Cube is displayed straight ahead so seeing it is guaranteed. It was printing a set of blue nuts and bolts, safely and silently encased in an acrylic box which is likely there to keep people from touching the hot end. A selection of rooks, gears, and vases in various colors sat around it. A representative came over as soon as he saw me at the display. He seemed excited to have the printer in-store, eagerly showing me a part of a turbine he’d printed.
His knowledge of 3D printing was mostly limited to the Cube, which makes sense. He knew how long every piece took to print (the green rook took an hour and a half and the red twisty gear took 17 hours). There was no CubeX on display but I was told that there would be one soon, and that there are plans to test an in-store print service in Q1. That wasn’t mentioned in the press release so hopefully he doesn’t lose his job for revealing company secrets. I filled out an entry for the Cube giveaway and left.
The Cube is going for $1299 in-store. In two days, none had been sold yet, but they have only four in stock so a huge demand would be met with “You can purchase one on our website.” Office Depot has over 1,600 stores worldwide and sells electronics in 60 countries. So if the pilot is successful the potential impact on the 3D printer market could be dramatic. Currently most revenue in the industry is for commercial printers and services, but the shift of desktop 3D printing from hobby/DIY to mainstream will shift some of that revenue. As investors witness demand for desktop printers more money will go into developing them further.
It was cool to see a 3D printer on a major retailer’s shelf though, almost surreal in a nerdy way. We’ve been talking about the Third Industrial Revolution and the democratization of manufacturing for a while now, and a lot of the progress is subtle and behind the scenes. Seeing a large step first hand is something I’ll remember.