While "selfies" made with smartphone cameras have been the rage over the last couple of years, 3-D printing technologies have created the "shelfie" — life-like mini-models of people that often find their way onto mantelpieces.
Encouraged by the long lines created by its first 3-D printing tour before Christmas, Asda is rolling out 3-D scanners at select stores across the United Kingdom.
In just 12 seconds, the booths capture a 3-D image of a person based on thousands of photos taken. The scanner maps every contour, picking up hair and skin color, clothes and even a watch or ring. The detailed digital model is then sent via the web to an Asda facility in Sheffield to be printed in full color ceramic. An eight-inch model of the person arrives within two weeks. Prices start at £60 (U.S. $103).
ASDA's scanning machine differs from conventional 3-D printers, which build the product in plastic, layer by layer, through a nozzle that works with only one color. According to the Daily Mail, Assad's system creates a model from a box filled with a white powdered ceramic. Jets shoot water or colors at the ceramic, which then solidifies. Airbrushing then removes the fine white powder to reveal the model, which is created in all the colors captured during the original scan.
In its initial trial, couples made models of themselves to use as wedding cake toppers; military personal, police officers and football (soccer) referees showed off their uniforms; and kids touted sports trophies they had won. "Before" and "after" figures for those with a goal of losing weight are also popular.
At the Code Conference that took place in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, Doug McMillan, the new CEO of Walmart, the parent of Asda, noted that Walmart has tested 3-D printing. "We have had some tests in this country and a couple of others, just bringing 3D printers into the store to show them to customers and create a mini-me, a statue of you, and we can't keep them in stock," he said, according to 3-Dprint.
Mr. McMillon suspects Walmart will soon be printing numerous products for customers inside stores and distribution centers.
Other articles indicate that 3-D printing technologies are quickly advancing as prices for printers come down dramatically — as low as $150 to $350. Space-efficiency, another hurdle, is also improving to speed the promise of making 3-D printers a common purchase for home use.
Is the 3-D printing opportunity more about machines for home use or retail products made in stores and warehouses?