Asda will start a trial with a 3D printing service in the Walmart-owned supermarket chains’ York (UK) store next week, with pending plans to propagate the service across the United Kingdom if it proves successful. The massive nationwide chain is looking to set up studios where shoppers can bring in objects to be scanned, or be scanned themselves.

Mini-me figurines will be familiar to many who are up on 3D printing, but to the wider audience the minutiae model of oneself will be bordering on a miracle – a recent poll in the UK showed that a huge 71% of respondents said that they have as yet heard little or nothing about 3D printing.

Asda believes that the figurines, which will start at a retail price of £40, scaled to ‘whatever size the customer wants,’ will be the most popular items. Objects, or people, will be scanned using high-resolution handheld cameras and then subsequently 3D printed in full colour, bronze or white. Once the process is completed — out of store — the end product will be available the next week alongside your weekly shop.

ASDA 3D Printing Service“Evolving well beyond simply filling frames with photographs of friends and family, 3D printed ‘mini me’ figures will add a whole new dimension to shoppers’ mantelpieces and the lifelike models are also expected to be popular as personalised wedding cake toppers,” an Asda spokesperson stated.

Asda is the second most successful UK supermarket chain behind Tesco, who itself has blogged about developing in-store 3D printing, as I reported at 3DPI just this week here. A video of Asda’s miniature application can be found here.

ASDA 3D Printing ServiceThis will likely fuel debate and projections within the 3D printing industry as to what the near future will look like for home 3D printing, specialist store 3D printing, mass consumer store 3D printing and industrial additive manufacturing within the UK, and further abroad.

In the UK, Asda, Selfridges, office specialists Staples, and the largest technology chains: PC World, Curries, Dixons and Maplin, all now boast 3D printers or related products or services. Online, eBay and Amazon now have dedicated 3D printer sections. All of which points to mainstream uptake. Regarding operating systems, Microsoft 8.1 will support 3D printing with it’s own file format upon release later this month, and Linux already supports 3DP API’s. Only Apple and Google have yet to show their hands regarding major computing platforms.

There are many, many specialist retailers of 3D printers and many specialist 3D printing services. For now, this author suggests looking to specialists, until the larger businesses have taken on board the potentials and the limitations of this broadening range of technologies and vast array of applications. Still, I look forward to being pleasantly surprised by just how well Asda, and in time Tesco, can do with in-store 3D printing.

I’ll leave the interested reader with some more statistics for the UK Ipsos MORI poll as referenced above, influenced by Cody ‘3D-printed gun’ Wilson’s one-man distortion of the almost limitless beneficial applications of 3D printing.

Fortunately, bio-printing human organs, industrial production efficiency increases, personalised production on demand, the potential reduction of animal testing, eventual logistical leveraging of world hunger and catalysation of mankind’s journey to creating new civilisations in space are applications that will long outlive the memory of the plastic one-shot gun that sullied the feelings and spiked the nerves of so many in the early mass media saturation of the industrial evolution that we are witnessing.

  • Around a third (35%) of people agree that it is a good thing people will be able to make everyday objects and spare parts at home – but an equal number (32%) are also concerned about people being able to make guns or knives at home.
  • Men are more likely than women to think that manufacturing at home is a good thing (43% vs. 28%)
  • 15-34 year olds are more positive (43%) about manufacturing objects from home, and this declines with age (22% among those aged 65+). The image of the old man tinkering in the shed could be a thing of the past as the YouTube generation gets interested in high tech manufacture from home.
  • There’s a clear regional divide. 40% in London and the South agree making everyday objects at home is a good thing, compared with around three in ten across the Midlands (31%), the North (34%) and Scotland (32%).
  • Southerners are most interested (10%) in owning a 3D printer – but curiously Londoners were no different from the rest of the country (4%).
  • Only 6% of people say they are interested in owning a 3D printer, though this rose to 20% among those who know a great deal or a fair amount about 3D printers. This suggests that demand will rise if people become familiar with 3D printers and perhaps understand better how this emerging technology can be useful for them.
  • Men are twice as likely as women to want a 3D printer (8% vs. 4%), and those aged 15-34 (9%) are more keen than those aged 65 and over (1%).

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