In a recent article I mentioned that there would need to be development in infrastructure before personalized 3D printing would be popular. Well, a step in that direction was made when Staples announced a partnership with Mcor Technologies. From recent discussions with Mcor’s Co-Founder Conor Maccormack, also found here on 3DEngr, I knew that the Iris printer was going to be launched and that Mcor had some “great partnerships” in the works but this one goes beyond my expectations. The “Staples Easy 3D” program is slated to put an Mcor Iris on location in Staples stores and customers will be able to upload files to the Staples website and then either go into the store to pickup or have the item shipped.
For the initial launch in early 2013 the focus will be on the Netherlands and Belgium. Staples is obviously a massive name though, and with 1800+ stores spread over the US and Canada (per their corporate website; wikipedia says over 2000 stores in 26 countries) they have the reach to roll out a print and pickup service that is accessible to millions of customers.
From Mcor’s Press release:
“Given our market leadership in commercial print, why would we ever stop at two dimensions?” said President Wouter Van Dijk, president of the Staples Printing Systems Division in Europe. “Customised parts, prototypes, art objects, architectural models, medical models and 3D maps are items customers need today, in a more affordable and more accessible manner. Mcor will help us to keep prices low, quality high and colour brilliant as we meet the demand.”
Although 3D printing is evolving on a similar path to 2D printing, there’s no sign that every home will have a 3D printer right away. “Until that time, consumers will look to service bureaus,” said Mcor Technologies co-founder and CEO Dr. Conor MacCormack. “Staples is uniquely positioned to become the pre-eminent service bureau to the world, and we will help them deliver highest quality and value. Staples Easy 3D is a breakthrough service in innovation and access for consumers and businesses alike.”
I was astounded to realize that Staples even has a “Printing Systems Division” and am encouraged that their president recognizes 3D printing as another way to deliver something that customers want. Specifically customers are looking for the “parts..models...maps) and what he did not mention was the need for a printer. As for the price, qualtiy and color brillance the Mcor Iris machine should provide specifications along these lines (full Mcor Iris specs):
A4 Paper: 256 x 169 x 150mmLetter Paper: 9.39 x 6.89 x 5.9in
1 million+ colours (CYMK – 4 cartridges including black)Mcor 3D Ink ensures full colour on all surfaces
A4 Standard Office Paper 80gsm (160gsm ply colour only)US Letter Standard Paper 20lb (43lb ply colour only)
The most important note though may be the actual cost and turnaround of “Staples Easy 3D”. There are other services out there that do on demand printing, such as Shapeways.com and Quickparts.com. Both of the services mentioned work online only which requires shipping from a central location. The differentiation and advantage for Staples and Mcor comes from the immediate proximity of their stores.
I reached out to Mcor to find out more about the pricing model and see if the time to delivery would be better than comporable services, specifically it you would be able to print and pickup the same day. Julie Reece, Marketing Director at Mcor, had this to say:
The service intends to be quick, but unlikely to be same day. The added advantage of having it in local Staples stores is the customer can drop-in and see the machine running and collect the part rather than wait for UPS/FedEx to deliver.
Each store will still have to have some expertise on hand, though it sounds like the Iris is easy enough to use that many store associates will be able to help maintain the service:
In terms of the color, its intended to run lights out, but it will still require some manual handling to ensure that the files are loaded correctly and are printable.
The last piece of information that is important is pricing. Again I asked Julie for some specifics on cost.
The pricing will be dependent on the geometry, but Staples expect that the costs will be lower than other substrates because we are using paper, therefore I’d imagine they won’t hike the prices to the same price as plastic.
Not the clearest answer but, considering Staples stocks mountains of printing material (paper) that is signicantly cheaper than plastic resin, it should be possible to come through and be the cheapest options. I’ll update more as soon as pricing details come out, until then it is still great to see this step towards mass availability to 3D printing.