Taking a photo of yourself (a selfie) with your iPhone or smartphone is now passé. Shapify.me from the Artec Group aims to let you create a full “mini me” eight-inch tall full body statue of yourself to 3D print via the service or on your own 3D printer. The scanning booth will allow thousands of customers to create a 3D miniature replica, or “shapie” of themselves.
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The service is having success in the United Kingdom via ASDA stores, a division of Walmart in the UK, where they recently unveiled the ArtecShapify booth that will scan a customer in 12 seconds. Full, detailed 3D models (or files) are created in just three minutes. The printed statue is available for pickup in about a week, in the store where you did the scan. After a pilot at the end of 2013, ASDA is rolling out in stores all over the UK in late August or early September of this year.
Making 3D “shapies” of all the family, customers can also come along to be scanned in their sports uniforms, wedding outfits, graduation robes or fancy attire, taking something totally new and personalized back home with them. Well, it takes about a week to get the final 3D printout back.
These “shapies” as the company calls them can be printed via the Artec service for around 100 US dollars. The final print from Artec is done in ceramic, in full color (whatever you were wearing at the time). The printer Artec uses creates the model from a box of white ceramic powder. Then, a series of jets (I’m presuming an inkjet on steroids) fire water or colors at the ceramic which solidifies as the ceramic dries. When finished, an airbrush is used to remove the fine white powder to reveal the model, which is created in all the colors captured during the original scan.
Users of the booth service also have the option to receive the file and print it on their own 3D printer, which most likely will be one or two colors, depending on the 3D printer type. I wasn’t able to find the price for just the 3D file.
The technology includes four wide-view, high resolution 3D scanners, one computer and a rotating rig to capture the image. Shapies also can be created from your own home using a Microsoft Kinect and the Shapify software, which can be downloaded online. Here is a video explaining how the process works. The site shows US$79 to get this version printed and shipped, but they are smaller – between three and four inches and only available in plastic.
As someone who is actively traveling around the USA to explore how 3D scanning and 3D printing are changing the way we work, the way we create, I’m impressed to see a retailer diving in so deep. Sure, this may just be a way to garner more foot traffic to a storefront, but it is also innovative and creates another way to put 3D technology in front of, and in the hands of, consumers.
Let’s say that Asda also has a bakery, which they probably do, why not make a smaller figurine set for the wedding cake topper (that service already exists) but if you could have it in-store, ready for your customer a week later – what a great way to weave technology into your retail experience.
There are other retailers in the USA spending time and money to figure out ways to sell 3D printers to consumers. They create demonstration spaces, showcases, and so forth, but this gives a consumer a very tangible result without the headache of having to figure it out on their own. It seems to me that a consumer is far more likely to purchase something when you’ve shown them a professional example. It helps that Asda (and Artec) are making the 3D scan and model accessible – because frankly that is a big piece of the 3D printing puzzle. If I were an entrepreneur near the Asda stores, I’d try to find a way to capitalize on all that foot traffic with a small 3D printer store or service nearby.