Science, Science and Tech

ASDA offers 3D printing service

This week Asda has become the first UK supermarket to offer a 3D printing service, providing customers the opportunity to have ‘mini-me’ models created of themselves, family and friends.

Asda-Superstore_Cape_Hill

Photo: Asda

Asda have been working on the technology for over 18 months, with the concept being trialled last week at the supermarket’s York store. Depending on the success, the technology could be rolled out on a nationwide scale in other Asda stores throughout the UK.

To create the 3D models, customers stand motionless in a studio, where a store employee uses a handheld camera to scan the person for up to two minutes. This collects data on the object’s shape, contours and colours, with the ability to identify six million colours to create an accurate representation. At present, Asda are only scanning people, however the technology is capable of scanning cars and pets although pets may prove tricky, as objects being scanned must remain still for two minutes. There is also a size limitation in place, with no objects smaller than a shoe being able to be scanned, to avoid models of items such as guns.

Once the object has been scanned, the model is printed offsite and is then ready for collection in-store one week later. The model is created by spraying thin layers of ceramic fluid, which then build up to create a solid 3D model. The model can be produced in full colour, but there are also white or bronze-style coating options available.

With prices starting at just £40 for an eight-inch figurine, ASDA are 60% cheaper compared to other UK retailers that are offering the service, such as Selfridges, where prices start at £100. It is also much cheaper than purchasing the technology yourself, with 3D printers retailing at £700 and more, although these prices will inevitably become more affordable, as the technology becomes more mainstream.

Feedback so far suggests that the service is popular, with customers driving from all over England to be amongst the first to own ‘mini-me’ models of themselves. However, time will tell whether the initial excitement over this product is just a novelty or whether the technology will re-define the current family portrait in the future.

25/10/2013

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