3D Printing: Taking the Guesswork Out of Retail Design


When you think 3D printing you may think of all the creative and crazy consumer products people are making with this technology – from bicycles to jewelry to eyeglasses. The Culinary Institute of America and 3D Systems Corporation recently joined forces to co-develop the ChefJet Pro, a culinary 3D printer that will produce edible, three-dimensional food. All interesting applications, though not necessarily tasty.

In the world of retail and fixture design, 3D printing has many useful and functional applications that we think will ultimately work to the retailers’ advantage. First, 3D printing is a huge time saver. A client can see on the spot how the aesthetics of a design will work in their space. These printers can quickly assemble 3D lighting or generate hardware and fixtures that are tangible and “built” to the retailer’s needs and specifications.

Second, 3D printing can make the building process more efficient. Creating prototypes on-site helps take much of the guesswork out of retail design and minimizes the margin of error for the builder. Having a three-dimensional object you can hold in your hand or view from different angles provides an accurate point of reference for making decisions.

Third, shipping and storage costs could come down as 3D files are simply downloaded or sent via email and printed on location. The National Retail Federation predicts, “Technologies like 3D printing will even more dramatically change the nature of the supply chain. We don’t expect customers to be making all their own products with their home 3D printers, but the idea of printing a product from a database or your own design on a remote printer is very real. The potential impact of 3D printing on warehoused inventory levels and the global supply chain is potentially disruptive.”

In the last few years, 3D printing has become more accessible as printer prices have dropped, though industrial printers typically start in the $2,500 - $10,000 range and production quality printers can cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Other cost considerations associated with 3D printers include specialized power supplies, materials to be used in printing and maintenance costs.

Though still in its infancy, we predict 3D printing will make a big impression on retail. How do you see 3D printing changing retail store design? Let us know.

Posted by Andrew Changelian | Request as a Speaker

Client relationship manager & quarterback of complex integrated marketing campaigns. Family man & lover of all things Boston. Into sharp suits & leather shoes.