On our recent visit to the UK we happened to drop by the iMakr store, which is one of the very few, perhaps the only, true retail store focused entirely on 3D printing. It's tagline is "The World's largest 3D Printing Store", and we think they could be right.
The store is located near Farringdon station in London, at 79 Clerkenwell Road, not coincidentally near numerous architecture and jewelry firms. From the outside, it at first appears to be simply another mysterious London shop. But upon entering you soon find out the truth when you see multiple 3D printers, supplies, samples and other equipment.
The store's primary purpose is to sell personal 3D printers. Currently handle a number of different units from several manufacturers. We saw MakerBots, CubeX's, Type A's, Up!s Flashforges, Ultimakers, Solidoodles and some Felixes. There's likely even more, but the bottom line is that this store truly is a 3D printer shop. This differs significantly from MakerBot's flagship retail shop, which sells only MakerBots, obviously.
Aside from the printers themselves, we saw supplies for various types of 3D printers, including filament and even bed glue for Cubes and CubeXs.
Like any specialty shop, there were several related publications on sale, including Hod Lipson's new book on 3D printing.
One of the major challenges we see in opening a shop like this is that the general public largely has no understanding of the topic. We spoke with founder Sylvain Preumont, who explained that while their original purpose was to sell 3D printers, they've branched out into several new services, such as educational training and basic 3D print services.
One of the ways iMakr is educating the public is through a dedicated workstation at the store. If you're interested, you pay £29 (USD$45) for an automated, interactive training session. You may select from six different projects and the interactive system takes you through the process of making them. You can even take home the resulting print, too.
As we checked out the store from the inside, we saw something very interesting taking place outside. Here you see two London passers-by who evidently came upon the store and marveled at the replicated items shown in the window. We were told a typical comment from visitors about the store is "This place is real???" Magic happens. It's these people and those like them that need to know more about 3D printing - and iMakr is helping that happen.