3D printing to become "as common as writing an email"

3D printing is rapidly moving mainstream, explains Christian Harries, as he checks out the world's largest 3D printing store.

Will the iMakr Store become the Apple Store of the 2010s?

Based on Clerkenwell Rd in Farringdon, London the iMakr Store is the worlds' largest store dedicated to 3D printing. At 2,500sq ft, it's home to a wide range of 3D printers, designer made objects and services that aim to get the public more engaged in 3D printing.

One of the ways it does this is by giving people the opportunity to design their own personalised object from scratch and have it 3D printed in-store for them to take home in just over an hour. It's a landmark for the mainstreaming of 3D printing - and it's not iMakr's only retail prescence in the capital either.

Pop-up stores

Over the Christmas period the company opened a pop-up shop in the department store Selfridges, where people could not only marvel at the capabilities of 3D printers but also get a full-colour 3D printed 'Mini-You' - a miniature version of themselves. It was so well received that they've relaunched it this month at Harvey Nichols.

Multiple cameras capture data that's used to print a perfect 3D replica

Unlike other miniature-you services that use hand-held 3D scanners - which can be a lengthy process and easily ruined if you move just a tiny bit - iMakr has developed a new way to achieve the same process within a few minutes. By taking multiple pictures from multiple angles all at the same time you can have several scans to choose from made in a snap.

This process makes things a lot easier if you have kids or pets that can't stand for too long or if you want to hold a funny pose or do a special smile.

3D printing platform

iMakr has also helped fund My Mini Factory, a platform where people can share their 3D printable designs online. Unlike some other websites it prides its on print testing each user-submitted design and only having high quality objects available to download.

My Mini Factory enables people with their own 3D printers to make money by printing other people's designs

While iMakr has its own 3D printing service with a wide variety of printers to choose from, My Mini Factory enables people with their own 3D printers to make money printing objects for people who don't have access to a 3D printer. There are also plans to launch a platform for designers, who'll be able to make money not only from printing 3D models but design them too.

The aim is that eventually, "everybody will be able to design and print 3D objects just like today everybody is capable of writing an email", the company says. We can only imagine where this new technology is taking us - but it's sure to be a fascinating ride.

Words: Christian Harries

Christian Harries is a freelance product designer and recent graduate from Ravensbourne. His portfolio can be seen here.