Despite the growing popularity of 3D printers, being limited to purchase through specialist stores and online shops means they still occupy a niche market of hobbyists and professional designers. You can't just waltz into your local office supply store and pick one up along with a pack of manila folders and paperclips. But soon, you'll be able to do just that. Office supply chain Staples will become the first major US retailer to offer 3D printers on its shelves, starting with the Cube from 3D Systems.
As far as 3D printers go, the Cube is one of the most accessible models for consumers, which likely influenced Staples' decision to carry it. Unlike most 3D printers, it comes fully assembled right out of the box, takes up relatively little space on a desktop, and installs easily on Mac and Windows computers. It's capable of printing items up to 5.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches (14 x 14 x 14 cm) in 16 different colors. Users will also have a choice of 25 free templates to print and will be able to download further designs online via Wi-Fi, or create their own with the included software.
This could be part of a concerted push from Staples to bring 3D printing to more consumers. The company also has plans to launch a 3D printing service that uses paper as material. It's hard to say at this point if the general public will take notice or not, but this news does at least indicate just how much 3D printers as a whole have begun creeping into the mainstream.
Staples already has the Cube available for purchase through its online store for US$1299.99, along with various accessories and printing cartridges. The company plans to stock a limited number in its brick-and-mortar stores from June.