We’ve seen several “3D Photo Booths” at recent trade shows. Are these a thing?
The business idea is straightforward: capture a quality 3D image of a subject, convert it to a 3D model and then print it in full color on a 3D printer. Make money fast! But is this a feasible line of business?
We can’t count the number of different 3D photo booth solutions we’ve seen recently; it seems at each trade show there’s another one. Or two. Or four.
Some use simplified hardware to keep costs down, while others go for broke and employ many expensive components. All produce 3D scans of more or less the same quality, as far as we can tell.
The business of the manufacturers is to sell these booths to local entrepreneurs who, presumably, would set up a local business capturing and printing 3D representations of subjects for cash.
Alternatively, it’s quite possible to build a homemade 3D photo booth using open source software and optical hardware (like a large pile of webcams or DSLRs) that can do the job just as well as the commercial equivalents. However, if you’re using DSLRs, as we’ve seen in a few installations, the price of the 3D photo booth will rise significantly.
Could this be a viable business opportunity? Perhaps, depending on the costs required to run the business and the amount of interest in the local area. At this time, we suspect the majority of people would be unaware they can easily obtain 3D prints of themselves, family, friends or even pets.
The problem in the business model we believe is not the price of the 3D photo booth - but rather it is the cost of 3D printing the captured models. These 3D prints most often are routed behind the scenes to the big 3D print services who have the required equipment available to 3D print in full color. And it’s expensive. Even small figurines will cost at least USD$100 and for anything reasonably sized you’re looking at several hundred dollars or even more for a single 3D print.
At that price, the number of potential 3D photo clients could decrease significantly, suggesting these businesses might succeed only in larger centers with populations having discretionary cash available.
One way around the cost issue is to market to companies, not consumers. We’ve heard of several companies attempting to sell 3D scanned figurines at corporate events, for example. However, the market for such company events is likely not large yet.
On the other hand, 3D photo capture requires a physical presence. It’s not feasible to obtain a digital 3D model of a person remotely, at least not yet. Thus the 3D photo business is going to be a local thing for now.