This is the year 3D printing came to Toy Fair in New York City. Yes, MakerBot had their first-ever Toy Fair booth on the third floor, in amongst the robot companies and tech toys, where they hoped to interest toy makers in their technology.
But down in the overflow room in the basement, little Pittsburgh-based PieceMaker Technologies was showing off prototypes of their in-store 3D printing kiosk. The concept: customers pick a model, choose a color, place their order, and walk out 20 minutes later with a finished piece.
With 3D printing still a developing technology, how will PieceMaker get toy-store owners comfortable enough to run the often-finicky machines reliably? The answer, according to co-founder and CEO Arden Rosenblatt, is that customers will be choosing from a pre-tested set of designs. All the kinks have been worked out of the models available, so shop owners and customers don’t have to worry about air-printing or bird’s nest mishaps.
No, you won’t be able to bring your own STL files to print. But you will be able to suggest new designs, and the company will add new models regularly as they become available.
The 3D printer and customer computer station will belong to PieceMaker, something like a soda distributor placing its vending machines in a location (not the comparison Rosenblatt prefers, but fairly accurate). PieceMaker staffers will work with store employees to get them trained on the equipment. Once a store is up and running with their PieceMaker “Factory in a Store” set-up, the company will continue to maintain and service their equipment.
Rosenblatt, a Carnegie Mellon graduate, says the company will be installing their kiosks this spring in several stores in the Pittsburgh area.
Stay tuned for more exciting updates from Toy Fair New York 2014!