How can the High Street boost sales of 3D printing?

Chris Elsworthy, CEO of CEL and creator of the Robox 3D printer, believes the High Street has an important role to play in growing the market for 3D printing…

When it comes to many new technologies, you have to see it to believe it.

Reading a review of an entirely new tech product can give you a feel for how it might work, but most people still need to see it work for themselves before they really get it. Nintendo understood this when it launched its glasses-free 3D console in 2011, bringing thousands of trial units to game shows and High Street shops for gamers to try for themselves. The same goes for 4K UltraHD TVs. You simply can’t understand what difference those extra pixels make unless you can witness them for yourself.

The media does its best to explain new technologies to the general public, but we should acknowledge that the High Street – and in particular electrical retailers – have a role to play in this too. People want to see how something works before they buy it.

Almost every day there’s a news story covering an amazing item made using a 3D printer, whether it’s something which can save a life, or something which can simply make us laugh. I still find, however, that outside of the engineering community, knowledge remains low about how 3D printing actually works in practice. In many cases, the keen DIYer or amateur maker still doesn’t understand what happens inside this new generation of magical boxes.

This is a shame, as the basics of 3D printing and additive manufacturing on a small scale are much easier to understand than microprocessors or 3D TVs. Moreover, we’ve found that people love to watch 3D printers in action – there’s a reason why all consumer 3D printers on the market include windows or transparent casing. Some of the best moments for us as a company are when we have the opportunity to bring our Robox 3D printer to big tech shows.

We have now reached a point where 3D printers on the market are affordable and designed to be relatively easy to use for the average consumer. Most people, however, will not invest money in a technology they do not fully understand, even if they recognise its usefulness to their lives. This is a particularly key issue for the makers and designers out there, who are always looking for new creation tools to create new and exciting projects.

Currently, 3D printers are most sought after by makers, engineers, DIY enthusiasts, hobbyists and technology devotees, but I strongly believe that 3D printers will eventually make their way into the home. Retailers will see that by showing off 3D printers in-store, they will not only help to draw new tech lovers into their shops, they will also help to introduce the next wave of makers into the exciting world of 3D printing.

Chris Elsworthy is CEO of CEL and creator of the Robox 3D printer. Robox is currently stocked in Maplin and CREAT3D.

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