Wednesday, July 10, 2013

News: Maplin brings 3D printing to the High Street


Rotherham-based electronics retailer, Maplin, has become the first major high-street retailer in the UK to sell 3D printers.

Manvers-based Maplin sells a range of 15,000 products to tech-savvy hobbyists as well as general consumers. The company's website attracts over 170,000 visitors every day and they operate a network of over 200 retail outlets throughout the UK and Ireland. They employ 2,500 staff.

The Velleman K8200 3D printer kit will go on sale in selected stores this week priced at £699.99

3D printing creates solid objects by building them up in very fine plastic layers. The first step is to create the 3D object design by using digital software on a computer. This design is transmitted to the 3D printer which begins to build up the design in plastic.

The printer melts plastic filament, then draws with it in a very fine layer. It then builds another layer of plastic on top, then another, and another, building a design in levels from the bottom up until you have a plastic object ready to hold and use.

From prototypes for new inventions to intricate models; 3D printing opens up a whole world of possibilities for creating replacement parts, bespoke toys or objets d'art. The only limit is the size of the printable area which is 20cm³.

The technique is being pioneering in rapid prototyping by the likes of Materialise and Fripp Design and Research on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham.

Oliver Meakin, commercial director at Maplin, said: "We have been excited about 3D printing technology for a long time, as its principles of innovation and creation sit perfectly with what Maplin has been doing for over 40 years. Until now, the cost of 3D printers limited their use to the professional market. However, the Velleman K8200 kit has enabled us to introduce 3D printing to the mass market.

"We selected this model primarily because it offers high performance printing at an affordable price, making it accessible to our customers. In addition, it requires assembly before use, which fits with the "build it yourself" ethos so central to Maplin's heritage. Part of the enjoyment lies in putting the kit together, so users are not just investing in a great product, but an experience too.

"Our in-store Maplineers are technical experts in this field and therefore we are in a great position to assist our customers in understanding this product, which for many will be completely new. This is only a first step for Maplin into the world of 3D printing and we look forward to developing this category further in the future."

Maplin now has a turnover of more than £200m, a world away from the early days in Essex when founders, Roger Allen and Doug Simmons, remained in their full-time jobs for two years, and the company didn't make a profit.

In 2008 they moved to a 220,000 sq ft state of the art distribution centre and head office at Manvers in Rotherham.

Maplin website

Images: Maplin


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