May.6, 2013

French office supplies retailer Top Office, a branch of the Mulliez Family's retailing empire in France, has launches its first 3D printing service to the public.

Top Office opened its first store in 1996 and has now 36 shops and 450 employees throughout France selling office furniture, stationery, ink cartridges and blank CDs/DVDs, with an annual turnover of 105 million euro. Its first 3D printing service is launched at its flagship store in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, near Lille, reported La Voix du Nord.

In the shop, a Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printer is used for printing 3D objects such as a bust of Beethoven, a miniature cathedral and a custom iPhone case etc.

(Image credit: Christophe Lefebvre)

"Soon making a 3D object will be as easy as making a photocopy." said Top Office CEO Raphaël Vanneste.

The price for making 3D printed objects starts at 9.90 euro for the basic models. One of their first customers ordered a flower replacement for his chandeliers. The company hopes that their service could reach to the general public - "it can be an architect who needs a model, a craftsman who wants to make a mold, a young man who wants to customize their mobile phone, an engineer student who needs a prototype, a toy, a figurine, a jewelry, etc." said Vanneste.

3D printers are taking another step in the long haul toward the mainstream. The Cube, made by 3D Systems, is now available on and will hit store by the end of June. Earlier Staples also opened its first 3D printing "Experience Center" powered by Irish firm Mcor's IRIS full-colour 3D printers in the Netherlands.

These major mainstream retailers have taken this step as a way to extend their business and service, and 3D printers would drive different revenues as designs instead of products are sold. In the future retailers could offer products with exclusive links to download files to personalize, modify or extend products sold in stores.

And our shopping experience could change forever. We could now go into one of these stores and order something to be printed, and pick it up later. And in the future, it will not just be a toy or miniature, it will be our food or clothes.

It's not here yet, but the march of technology will affect all retailers. What is certain is that all retailers should start thinking about how to approach changes to take advantage of the technology before the wave of consumer demand come.

Posted in 3D Printing Services



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