Laura Barnes looks at the 3D printer market in the lead up to Christmas

OPINION: Can 3D printing take off at retail?

With the abundance of Kickstarter projects being funded and the handful of big chains now stocking the devices, you can’t help but get a little excited at the thought of owning your own 3D printer.

It seems fairly obvious that the products will be one of the most popular alternative gifts to get this Christmas, but will the futuristic gadgets stay popular all-year round?

Maplin, Selfridges and Currys/PC World will all be stocking 3D printers in the lead up to Christmas, while Asda is letting its shoppers turn themselves into 3D printed figures. The category will even get its own exhibit area at CES 2014.

However will everyone gather around on Christmas Day, plug in the 3D printer and test out what’s possible by making an abundance of useless creations, only to stow it away to live out the rest of its days in the back of a dusty cupboard alongside the humble sandwich toaster?

In our recent 3D printer feature, Jonathan Marsh, head of buying for electricals at John Lewis, mentions that if companies such as LEGO start developing software products for the category, 3D printing could really take off.

This is a very interesting idea. If well-known brands develop or endorse 3D printing software, or even produce special attachments or their own-branded resin, we could see a big shift in the kind of products that tech retailers could stock to make money out of the 3D printing market.

Just imagine how it could change the way consumers fix broken gadgets, expand toy collections, or design their own products. In the meantime, big retailers are certainly willing to take a punt at stocking the devices or offering them as part of a paid-for service – let’s hope that optimism filters its way through to shoppers.

With all that in mind, it’s not impossible to see a 3D printer in every household in the near future.

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