3D printing in store? That Asda be madness
10th Oct 2013 | 12:06
3D printing is exciting but let's not oversell it
You've got to love newspapers. Given the choice between printing any old techno-nonsense and printing the less spectacular facts, they'll go for the more exciting option every time.
The launch of ASDA's in-store 3D printing service - a launch where "in-store" currently means "one store" - is a classic example.
The Mirror seems particularly enamoured of the idea. Asda's 3D printing will create copies of anything "from a treasured trophy to a prized sports car," it says, and "girls who have dreamed of owning a pair of red-soled Louboutin court shoes costing around £600 can now take home lifesize replicas" for around £80.
Leaving aside the idea that copying such shoes or The Mirror's other suggestion, a Chanel handbag, would have ASDA in court faster than you can say "infringing the copyright of firms who can afford
really good lawyers", the fact that it's much cheaper to buy a replica car than to 3D-print a shonky model of one and the apparent price confusion, technology hasn't been oversold like this since BT urged us to surf the internet using WAP.
One day my prints will come
I'm as excited as anybody else by 3D printing technology - I've seen 3D printed metal that blew my mind - but given that it's hard enough to get a decent passport photo in the Photo-Me booths in ASDA lobbies I won't be booking a trip to York to take part in the trials for this one.
While the newspapers prefer the PR shots of perfectly painted, hand-finished miniatures what you'll actually get isn't quite so impressive - and that's because the tech is still fairly immature.
I don't doubt that 3D printing is capable of delivering 3D-printed dresses and that fun toys such as the 3Doodler show the kinds of toys our kids will play with in the future, but for now the hype is way beyond the reality.
I'm reminded about the hype around the internet in the bad old days of slow dial-up modems and CompuServe, when just downloading a GIF took the best part of a fortnight.
Back then we were promised all kinds of digital delights, such as movies streaming to our TVs in full HD, but the reality was a crappy RealPlayer video that was smaller than a stamp.
The internet delivered eventually and 3D printing will too, but what we're seeing now is a preview, not the main feature.