3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is a process of using a digital file to create a three dimensional solid object. It’s made using an additive process: it is formed by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created. Using Computer Aided Design (CAD) you can virtually design your object, then use a 3D modelling programme to create a new object, or use a 3D scanner to copy an existing object.
3D printing can be used for rapid manufacturing, a method where companies use 3D printers for short run custom manufacturing. This means the printed objects are not prototypes but are the actual end user product, so there are more opportunities to personally customise products via kiosks.
Since 2011, personal and domestic 3D printing for hobbyists and enthusiasts has been rapidly growing as these printers are getting cheaper, so as the cost comes down they are becoming more appealing to a wide range of businesses and consumers looking for a bespoke service with a limited run.
Toys ‘R’ Us have partnered up with Nickelodeon and Pittsburgh, and are now offering children a chance to make their very own 3D printed toys. Globally known favourite brands like ‘SpongeBob’ and ‘Dora the Explorer’ can be printed from a custom kiosk that lets children modify the design and create personalised toys or jewellery. They are targeted at the mass market with the low cost price tags, with the cheapest toy starting at just £5.
Elsewhere in the FMCG market, ASDA have a 3D printing pod which creates a ‘mini me’ ceramic figurine. You must stand in the pod perfectly still for 12 seconds, and then a 3D virtual image will appear on the screen, which is then edited and sent to a 3D printing centre and then forwarded to your front door once it has been made.
The Future of 3D Printing Kiosks
We are beginning to see the merging of the two technologies and once the capabilities of 3D printing are fully understood, we anticipate that there’ll be further instances of 3D printing in kiosks, particularly in markets where personalisation is king.