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3-D printer store shows off new tech

MakerBot founder Bre Pettis stands behind the counter at the Makerbot store in New York on Nov. 20, 2012.
MakerBot founder Bre Pettis stands behind the counter at the Makerbot store in New York on Nov. 20, 2012.TechMediaNetwork

NEW YORK — The world's first 3-D printer retail store has been open for two months now. MakerBot store operator Jason Schapiro has noticed that about half the people who come in are getting the chance to see a 3-D printer in real life for the first time. 

3-D printers create objects by printing successive thin layers of molten plastic, building objects up layer by layer. Certain industries, such as airplane makers, have used them to print one-of-a-kind parts for years now. Meanwhile, several companies, such as MakerBot Industries, Ultimaker and Cubify, are working to sell 3-D printers to the regular folks at home.

But to get customers to bring 3-D printers home, companies first need to explain how the devices work. With a retail store, that initial lesson is much easier to give, Schapiro said. The store sells a few printers a day, he added. 

TechNewsDaily visited the MakerBot store during a grand opening event Nov. 20. Customers can buy home 3-D printers here, which start at $1,749. They may also buy 3-D printed knickknacks, including holiday ornaments, a chain-link watch strap, replicas of historical buildings, toy cars with rolling wheels and toy helicopters with spinning blades. The simplest tchochkes start at $5.

The store also unveiled a new service Tuesday. There's now a photo booth where customers may sit inside, get four photos snapped of their faces from different angles, and have those photos turned into a 3-D model of their head — a digital file that can get sent to a 3-D printer, analogous to a document file for a laser printer. MakerBot then 3-D prints and mails the head to you.

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