Posted by: crudbasher | February 28, 2013

How 3D Printing Might Replace Some Retailers

I had an idea I wanted to jot down here.

redboxwalmartphotoI used RedBox for the first time a few weeks ago. If you don’t know, these are automated boxes that are located around most areas from which you can rent DVDs and video games. The way it works is you use their website, or app to make a reservation for a product. You then go to the box, put in your credit card and it dispenses your item. You return it the next day at the same box.

Naturally you can go straight to the box and rent directly there but it’s the Internet aspect that interested me. Basically this is what happens when you connect a vending machine up to the net. The business model is interesting because they are keeping their costs very low. These kiosks are unmanned. I imagine there are people that circulate around and fill the machines but it’s different than actually having staff at each location. This got me to thinking, what else could work with this model? Well, any product that is smallish could be dispensed but what is you didn’t have the product at all?

Imagine a smallish box that had a 3d printer inside. A person can use the Internet to order and customize whatever item they want, such as a cell phone and then it would give you a time and place the item would be ready. Of course you can do this in a regular retailer but they have staff, which raises expenses.

I don’t see stores going away entirely for even the distant future but there will be lots more options for getting products. The moral of the story here is that labor costs are driving new business models. If you are going to land a job, you had better bring something valuable to the company.

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