North American hardware retail giant Lowe’s has set up a way for customers to 3D print customized products.
The huge retail chain sells a wide variety of parts and supplies for construction projects in their nearly 2,000 stores across North America. One of their subsidiaries is Orchard Supply, a chain focused on “hardware and garden store focused on paint, repair, and the backyard”.
They’ve set up a website in which customers can select minor customization of common hardware items, including: doorknobs, cabinet handles, cover plates and address plates. You can select quantities, materials and colors (if appropriate depending on the material selection).
Eventually, you’re able to checkout, where you’re told who’s making your product. In our case, the answer turns out to be Sculpteo, one of the leading 3D print services, who are manufacturing requested items on behalf of Lowe’s. Lowe’s has also partnered with CGTrader on this project, likely to provide the 3D models used for customization.
During checkout you’ll see this curious disclaimer:
The 3d printed objects that you order are decorative objects only. Seller does not guarantee any functionality. 3D printed objects are not toys and must not be given to children. They must not come in contact with food and drink and should be kept away from any heat sources or electricity.
Doorknobs and switch plates don’t normally come with a similar disclaimer, so it’s possible this partnership may expand into additional product types.
They’ve also partnered with Authentise, who provide secure remote 3D printing. It’s not quite clear why they’re in this partnership, but it may be the service could permit you to print a purchased product on your home 3D printer in the future.
While it appears anyone can make requests for customized parts, even far outside of Lowe’s normal sales area, they have also set up an in-store version of the service. In their Mountain View, California Orchard Supply store, visitors can use touch screens to prepare their customized requests for products in the same way. It’s no different from the website, but casual visitors may get a kick from “manufacturing” their own customized items.
We think this is a pretty interesting way to tie together several independent services to leverage 3D printing for customers, who might not have considered the possibility of customized products previously. Try it out yourself!