When Windows 8.1 rolls out to PCs everywhere this fall, it will come with 3D printer support that is supposed to make creating a plastic figurine as easy as printing off your monthly expense report in Excel. Not wanting to miss a golden opportunity to show off the capabilities of 3D printing and Windows in the same place, MakerBot 3D printers are debuting now in 18 Microsoft Store retail locations across the U.S.
Dubbed "The MakerBot Experience," the demos provide 3D printing fans with live demonstrations of MakerBot products at select Microsoft Stores. You will also be able to purchase your very own MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer, and filament, if you happen to have an extra $2549 lying around.
MakerBot is one of several Microsoft partners working with the software maker to ensure their hardware will have plug-and-play functionality with Windows 8.1.
The complete list of Microsoft Store locations where you can find MakerBot printers includes:
- Fashion Square, Scottsdale, Ariz.
- South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, Calif.
- The Shops at Mission Viejo, Mission Viejo, Calif.
- Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, Calif.
- Fashion Valley, San Diego, Calif.
- Westfield San Francisco Centre, San Francisco, Calif.
- Park Meadows Mall, Lone Tree, Colo.
- Danbury Fair Mall, Danbury, Conn.
- Lenox Square, Atlanta, Ga.
- Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, Ill.
- Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Ill.
- Mall of America, Bloomington, Minn.
- The Mall at Rockingham Park, Salem, N.H.
- Bridgewater Commons, Bridgewater, N.J.
- The Westchester, White Plains, N.Y.
- Houston Galleria, Houston, Texas
- Tysons Corner Center, McLean, Va.
- Bellevue Square, Bellevue, Wash.
During Microsoft's Build developer conference in June, Microsoft and MakerBot announced that 3D printers would be coming to a select number of Microsoft Stores. The project began with just three Microsoft retail locations in Seattle, San Francisco, and Palo Alto.
MakerBot says the expansion to another 15 stores is due in part to "tremendous interest and enthusiasm" for 3D printing during its initial partnership with Microsoft. However, the 3D printing duo were probably also motivated by the current trend to make 3D printing more accessible.
Microsoft's foray into selling 3D printers follows an announcement from Staples in May that it would start selling the Cube 3D printer through its online store. The office supplies chain claimed it was the first major U.S. retailer to offer 3D printers. However, Amazon also got serious about 3D printing in May by quietly introducing a section of its online megastore dedicated to 3D printers.
Watch a video of our Lab building a 3D printer
Despite the recent hubbub surrounding 3D printing and how it may reshape the world's manufacturing sector, not everyone is convinced 3D printing will have a big impact at home. In April, Gartner research director Pete Basiliere told Network World that 3D printing will struggle to gain traction at home. Basiliere pointed to the skills required to design a 3D printed model and operate the machine as major obstacles. Price will be another problem for 3D printing since most machines still cost thousands of dollars. That may change in the coming years. A report in March from Gartner's Basiliere predicted that enterprise-class 3D printers would drop below $2000 by 2016.
As prices go down, the ability to create 3D printed models may also become easier. 3D printer fans can already go to the MakerBot's Thingiverse Website to share and download 3D model designs. More services like this will no doubt pop up as 3D printing goes mainstream. Perhaps software will also become smart enough to help even the most inept designer succeed in creating objects for their 3D printer at home.
We're sure to hear more about 3D printing in the coming years as hobbyists use the technology to create everything from Yoda figurines to working firearms. Not to mention more studies about the potential health concerns of having one of these mini plastic factories in your home.