Nov 28, 2016 | By Tess

The Christmas season is always very exciting for the 3D printing and maker communities, as it tends to inspire festive and innovative 3D models. Last year for instance, we were blown away by maker Laura Taalman’s amazing Snowflake Machine, capable of generating unique 3D printable snowflake models from an algorithm. This year, retail giant Walmart will be getting onto the Christmas 3D printing train with a new pilot program that will allow customers to customize and 3D print their very own festive ornaments.

The pilot program, which has been initiated through a partnership between Walmart Canada and Toronto-based IoT and mobile solutions company Intersect (formerly Bnotions), aims to give Walmart clients an unprecedented level of product customization through 3D printing technologies. Of course, as a pilot project, the scope of the initiative has remained quite narrow, hence the Christmas theme, and will only be offered at one participating Walmart location in Ancaster, Ontario.

Through this festive scheme, Walmart is hoping to explore its options in terms of 3D printing and product customization to see how viable it might be on a larger scale. The Christmas initiative, which offers clients the chance to customize and print their own $10 holiday ornaments, will help the retail chain to see how 3D printed custom products could potentially be offered on larger scale. As Amber Foucault, Vice President of product management for Intersect points out, “Walmart is going to make that investment to see if there’s a market for it. It could be a massive business opportunity for Walmart down the road if they can do it at scale.”

Intersect and Walmart Canada worked together for nine weeks to bring the pilot program to life, enlisting the help of London, Ontario-based 3D printing startup 3DMakeable Inc. to 3D print the customized Christmas bobbles. By bringing on a 3D printing service to make the ornaments rather that just have an in-store 3D printer do the job, Walmart is making sure that its products will be of a higher quality that what people could simply make at home on a desktop 3D printer.

In order to maintain a controlled trial program, and to be realistic in terms of what 3DMakeable can produce as a startup, Walmart will only be offering small ornaments to clients. As Foucault explains, “It’s really difficult to scale 3D printing. We wanted to make sure we keep it as tight and concise as possible.” The customization process, which will take place in store, will be running until December 20th.

As a giant corporation, it is also notable that Walmart has opted to work with a small 3D printing service startup rather than a larger, more established 3D printing service. Perhaps if they do eventually decide to scale up their 3D printed products, the switch will be inevitable, but for now it is pretty commendable that they have partnered with a young and ambitious company.

Ultimately, the 3D printed Christmas ornament pilot project will allow Walmart Canada to assess whether their clients will actually buy personalized 3D printed products set at a reasonable price point. If people do appear interested in the new offering, Walmart could begin to further integrate customization and 3D printing.



Posted in Fun with 3D Printing



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