London is about to get eight 3D production centres over the next 18 months, courtesy of Elgin Loane, an Irish entrepreneur. Color Company, Mr. Loane's existing business, will host these eight new centres on their existing premises. These locations will now include an Objet30 Pro 3D printer in addition to the machines they use for document printing. The Object offers 7 different materials to choose from, with clear transparent, high temperature and rigid opaque polypropylene-like materials.
Judging from their website, it looks like they are offering 3D printing services only. Yet unlike other 3D printing services, you could walk/drive to one of Color Company's 8 locations and pick up your printed object, instead of having it shipped to you. This moves it closer to a Kinkos-like model for mass customization of 3D printed objects - an online and walk-in service available to anyone who can use the 3D printers or have objects printed for them. The closest I have seen to the Kinkos-for-3D-printing business model is TechShop in the US. TechShop offers:
1) 3D printing service: sent a valid digital model and they will print it for a fee.
2) Education and 3D printing services: a customer can work with an expert to learn how to create a digital 3D model for printing, so they eventually have the skills to create digital representations of their models on their own. They will also print the object. (NextFab Studio also offers this kind of service.)
3) Design and 3D printing services: a customer brings an idea to an expert who is paid to work with the customer and create a digital 3D model. They will also print the object.
The combination of services which I have not yet seen widely advertised is offering design and 3D printing services within one business, where the customer does not want to learn how to create the digital model.
From my experience, there are many people interested in 3D printing, but they do not want to take the time to learn how to create a digital model. They want to provide a designer with an idea and the end result will be a 3D printed model. Ponoko, Shapeways and i.materialise offer the closest which is to provide links to outsourced designers or the ability to put a call to current online shop designers to make a customer's requested object.
Companies like Ponoko, Shapeways and i.materialise are such an important piece of propelling this 'third industrial revolution', but I can not help but think if in urban centers there were 3D printing walk-in locations, such as the Color Company, that offer this kind of end-to-end design and 3D printing service, that they would find an untapped market.