Electronics specialist Maplin today become the first major high-street retailer in the UK to sell 3D printers.
The Velleman K8200 3D printer kit, which went on sale in selected stores and on the firm’s website today, is not much larger than a standard paper printer, is built with an aluminium frame, and comes with Repetier software for product design.
The device comes with five metres of PLA (polylactic acid) – the 3mm plastic wire that is melted before being built up in very fine layers to create the desired 3D objects.
Oliver Meakin, commercial director at Maplin, said: “We have been excited about 3D printing technology for a long time, as its principles of innovation and creation sit perfectly with what Maplin has been doing for over 40 years.
“Until now, the cost of 3D printers limited their use to the professional market. However, the Velleman K8200 kit has enabled us to introduce 3D printing to the mass market."
The first step to creating a 3D object with the printer is to design it using digital software on a computer. This design is then transmitted to the 3D printer, which automatically builds the design in plastic.
It is possible to download designs from the Internet or use the Repetier software to design anything from replacement parts, bespoke toys or art; the only limit is the size of the printable area, which is 20cm³.
“We selected this model primarily because it offers high performance printing at an affordable price, making it accessible to our customers,” said Meakin.
“In addition, it requires assembly before use, which fits with the ‘build it yourself’ ethos so is central to Maplin’s heritage. Part of the enjoyment lies in putting the kit together, so users are not just investing in a great product, but an experience too.”