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Tesco: 3D Printing Will Come To Supermarkets 'Within a Few Years' 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the yes-i'd-like-to-print-4,000-lego-bricks-please dept.
TinTops writes "The IT chief of supermarket giant Tesco has said he believes there is a market for 3D printing in large supermarkets, and that it will be 'good for customers.' Mike McNamara told V3: 'I think it will help Tesco as a company, I don't think it will be a bad thing. It'll be a great thing for customers, we'll have 3D printing in our stores. As retailers you'll always adapt. So new things come along — the internet came along, we adapted to that one. We kind of have the internet version two with smartphones now, which has been a bigger impact than the wired internet, we'll adapt to that, we'll adapt to 3D printing, we'll adapt to RFID. You live, you change.' McNamara thinks 3D printers will be commonplace in stores before they start showing up in significant numbers at people's homes. This could 'give shoppers a new reason to visit shops for quick access to niche items.'"
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Tesco: 3D Printing Will Come To Supermarkets 'Within a Few Years'

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  • The Cake: Not A Lie (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guano_Jim (157555) on Friday September 27, 2013 @12:00PM (#44972451)

    I could see cake decorations being printed on-demand in your local supermarket. Dad likes Game of Thrones? Print him a cyvasse set [thingiverse.com] and put it on his birthday cake.

    3d printing with sugar [the-sugar-lab.com] is well on its way to becoming a mature technology already, so yeah, a few years and I wouldn't be surprised to see it at the bakery.

    • by icebike (68054)

      Yes, but what about the things actually purchased at a supermarket?

      Can you print me up a dozen eggs, quart of milk, breakfast sausages, toast and hash-browns? Bottle of wine? Chicken?

      Admittedly some kitchen items, cups, saucers, various utensils, might be printable, but what's the point of that.?

      Seems to me this technology would be more appropriate in a hardware store, so you could get a replacement left handed widget framis for you obsolete spoze-a-tron in-sink disposal on a Saturday afternoon.

      • No, I'm pretty sure that food has been printed---maybe not that interesting in texture, yet, but (by an amazing coincidence) anything capable of printing replacements for living tissue should be capable of printing food.
        • by icebike (68054)

          Someone printed meat [engineering.com], I believe. But then they started with meat cells to begin with. So basically this would not solve the production problems of meat, but would allow you slurry the whole cow in the slaughter house and pipe it to the grocery store. Whole new meaning for the term "meat pipe."

      • by xmousex (661995)

        um
        eggs? toast? chicken? wine? that sounds like actual food items

        for profitable grocery items that actual move you need to follow the nearest child to their favorite section where capn crunch, eggos, pop tarts, fruit rollups and oreos live. you look at all that crap and tell me it cant just be printed on demand to the same effect.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by rickb928 (945187)

        Just so we are clear here...

        Much of the rest of the world thinks it's odd that in the U.S. you can go to a single store and buy a shotgun with ammo, oil for your car, and a loaf of bread. Walmart.

        Much of the rest of the world has modeled their supermarkets on the U.S. model. Where you can buy that loaf of bread, a prepaid cellphone, an HDTV, and a paperback book. Oh, and a gift card for iTunes. Fry's, etc.

        This is undoubtedly explored further on in this discussion, but I can foresee getting coupons for tr

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by icebike (68054)

          Actually, no, the rest of the world does not think it is odd to find Walmart, Kmart, Fred Meyer, or similar types of stores. Or shoppers centers, or malls.

          They have them too. Sometimes the same brands, sometimes homegrown brands.

          You should have listened to Putin when he bitch slapped Obama : the US is not an exceptional country.

          • by rickb928 (945187)

            I didn't write 'the rest of the world'. I wrote 'much of the rest of the world'.

            Subtle, I know. But you can recognize it when it's pointed out, right?

            • by icebike (68054)

              Which Much were you referring to?
              Antarctica?

              Did you happen to see coverage of the Mall attack in Kenya? Looks just about like malls near me.
              Howbout Tesco [wikipedia.org], the chain featured in this story?
              Maybe Brazil [thebrazilbusiness.com]? Or South America [wikipedia.org] in general?

              I'm at a loss to find many countries, with the possible exception of Cuba and North Korea that is unfamiliar with the concept
              of supermarkets, malls, and shopping centers.

              • People in Germany think it's weird to buy a shotgun and bread in the same store.

                There are other examples. Not about having modern supermarkets or such, just the cultural differences about certain goods and services and how they are usually acquired.

                We are different. Just like every other place is.

                • by icebike (68054)

                  People in Germany think it's weird to buy a shotgun and bread in the same store.

                  You speak for all of them do you?

      • by Qzukk (229616)

        I consider it the evolution of the photo counter. Instead of dropping off your film canister you drop off your plans and pick up your finished chunk of plastic when it's done.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Surely the bigger impact would be allowing Tesco to expand its offerings, so they can compete for more of the business for which people are currently willing to make extra trips to other places.

        That is, when/if 3d printing becomes actually practical. Parts from CNC milling machines are still made by one producer in a particular, and shipped from there, and there's no thriving mass market for designs; not a happy precedent for 3d printing.

  • j/k, I think printing food at the grocery store might be a little farther off than this. However, I am trying to think of what would advantage there would be at the grocery store waiting for your chosen object to be printed, rather than what is going on now with low price-per-unit injection molded mass production. I'm sure there is something, many somethings out there suitable for this, I am just having a hard time figuring out what they are.
    • by Kardos (1348077) on Friday September 27, 2013 @12:08PM (#44972521)

      It'll be akin to existing photo printing at supermarkets. Send your design from home, it'll be ready in a number of hours. It'll appeal to the same people who don't want to buy a decent quality colour printer, and photo paper, and ink, etc to print their own photos.

      People will print things that aren't already mass-produced and available at the dollar store next door. Vacuum cleaner part broke? I'll get one 3D printed in 2 hours rather than send $50 to the manufacturer and wait for it to ship, if it still exists.

      • That idea makes good sense. I keep forgetting (unless I am in one) that grocery stores of today are more like mini-malls with the variety that they provide to the consumer.
      • My thoughts exactly. Also a unless you are printing a lot of things all the time is is much more effective to just use the setup at the supermarket than it is to have your own.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        It'll appeal to the same people who don't want to buy a decent quality colour printer, and photo paper, and ink, etc to print their own photos.

        You know, I've come to the conclusion that there very little benefit in printing your own pictures.

        By the time you pay the consumables, the photo place can print your digital pics for a fraction of what you pay to own and use a colour printer.

        I did it for a while, but the cost of ink and paper made me realize that if these guys will do it for a few pennies/photo, the

        • Hell, the wife is of the opinion it's cheaper to throw out the printer instead of getting a new toner cartridge, since the cartridge often costs what the printer did and the printer comes with one. :-P

          Is she aware that new printers often come with "starter" cartridges that have less toner in them than the "standard" cartridge does.

      • by Salgak1 (20136)
        That, however, assumes the ability of the Grocery-store printer to handle a wide variety of plastics. Some parts have fairly exacting specs for strenghth, etc. I see INDUSTRIAL printers with multiple types of feedstock [stratasys.com], but not really sure that a Consumer-access printer will have that at a reasonable cost in the next few years. . .
      • Very insightful, using that term in the usual sense of 'I was going to say that, damn your eyes.'

        I would point out as well that regardless of how good home printers get, commercial centres such as supermarkets will always be able to afford better, or at least more full-featured, ones---it's quite possible that few households will need the ability to print high-quality aluminium things (e.g., jaw-bones or derailleurs) on a regular basis.

        My local photo shop still does better than any colour printer we c
    • by idontgno (624372)

      A previous poster pointed out that supermarket bakeries custom-fabbing decorative elements is one possibility. The often work to-order, and don't usually have the customer waiting around for a custom cake to be finished, so 3d printing sugar or plastic decorative gew-gaws isn't much different than inkjet printing grandma's and grandpa's wedding picture onto starch film, which is done all the time right now.

      I suspect that's where 3d printing will come into its own in this arena: processes that already offer

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      Exactly. The model would have to be "come back later in a couple hours". And unfortunately it would be self-defeating. If it was successful then it would have longer wait times because the printer would be busy. Of course that's easily solved with more printers, but at one point you stop being a supermarket that offers printing and become a printer that stocks supermarket goods...
  • I don't think we're all that far off from home 3D printing entering the range of "affordable" for most people. The technology keeps making significant jumps, with everything from shower curtain rings to guns being printed. Once wider adoption becomes a reality, the economic reality of greater mass production will bring it down in short order.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Translation: We have no idea what this is, but we think it's overhyped, and we're hedging our bets so we can either get on or off the bandwagon "in a few years" and still look good now.

    No one makes their own clothes, very few people have a computerized sewing machine and buy clothes plans, what makes you think that something more complex and more esoteric is going to catch on like this? Too much sci-fi?

    • by Applekid (993327)

      Make a prediction. Any prediction.

      If you're wrong, no one will remember, or you can make another prediction about something right around the corner that kept your original prediction from coming true. If, on the other hand, it happens to be right, you get bragging rights and credibility in finding your next job as an outside consultant "expert".

      • Make a prediction. Any prediction.

        If you're wrong, no one will remember,


        Except if you're Jim Cramer in which case people did, and do, track his predictions [fool.com] so he can't forget and claim otherwise.

        If you take notice, there's an awful lot of red on his predictions.
    • They'll use it to print plastic fruit & vegetables. That way they'll be able to sell perfect looking, albeit, no-taste food which is what they're marketing experts have promtoed.

    • Re:"in a few years" (Score:5, Interesting)

      by clodney (778910) on Friday September 27, 2013 @12:33PM (#44972795)

      No one makes their own clothes, very few people have a computerized sewing machine and buy clothes plans, what makes you think that something more complex and more esoteric is going to catch on like this? Too much sci-fi?

      This is an excellent point. 3D printing is a potentially transformative technology that is very much in its infancy. How many things are there that are made out of a single material, or even a small number of materials suitable for 3D printing?

      Can you print chips? Capacitors? Can you make a metal latch on a plastic body? Right now I think the answer to all those things is no. 3D printing is great for modelmakers, and some specialty niches, but it is a very long way from replacing any significant manufacturing. And even when it evolves to that point I would be surprised if a capable printer would be something that it would be worthwhile to buy for your home.

      • Can you make a metal latch on a plastic body?

        Not with a single print head. But you can print the metal latch with a sintering printer, print the plastic with an extruding printer, and then have a robot retrieve and assemble the parts. In the near future, multi-process printing will be more common: you will be able to print the metal latch with one print head, and then switch print heads and print plastic into and around the metal part.

  • Maybe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Friday September 27, 2013 @12:10PM (#44972543) Homepage Journal
    I can see this, mostly because we are getting some basic 3D printers out there. The cost of the originals was in the precision apparatus. Right now printer can get down to features below half a mm and layer thickness of tens of microns. If those number doubled, the price might come down by as much as half.

    Also, given a market for drawings there might actually be something to print. Of course every pop culture firm is going to be suing every one to death for every depiction of mickey mouse or jar jar binks or the enterprise. I suppose that they will have trouble with toy manufacturers if they wanted to license such templates. I am not sure how many people will go and design their own. I practice by designing a chess set, but I got some high end software for free.

    Then there is the cost of the resin, which is really why Costco wants to go into the business. I would assume that 3D printers are going to end up like ink jet printers. Many will have then, as they might only cost a few hundred dollars, bug the sticker shock might put them in a corner. Or like label makers. I have one, but I am not really willing to shell out the cost of a cartridge.

  • Expect Kinko's to be ready very soon. But then all the corner store offerings will go the way of photo printing outlets once the ability moves into the home.
    • Expect Kinko's to be ready very soon. But then all the corner store offerings will go the way of photo printing outlets once the ability moves into the home.

      Most homes own a printer, but Kinko's is still in business. They fill a rather large niche. I expect in store 3d printing to go the same way.

      • And I for one welcome these strange new Kinko's locations with industrial three phase power and 3,000lb metal laser sintering printers.

        I'm sure there will be consumers lining up at the doors, Solidworks 3D models in hand...ignoring the long print times and that your average consumer has never even heard of CAD before.
        • And I for one welcome these strange new Kinko's locations with industrial three phase power and 3,000lb metal laser sintering printers.
          I'm sure there will be consumers lining up at the doors, Solidworks 3D models in hand...ignoring the long print times and that your average consumer has never even heard of CAD before.

          If they had there models in hand wouldn't that defeat the purpose? :D

          More seriously, I expect people to hit print on a website, then drive down to the store to pick it up. They could run it like Etsy or Amazon, where Kinko's takes a percentage of the profits. Instead of shipping, the item is automatically printed at the nearest store. It would actually be pretty efficient for low sales volumes.

  • Customer punches in "burger" and Tesco printer groans, sputters and out pops a miniature Horse. go Tesco!
  • "As a company, you know, internet version two, cat memes and WiFi, and now 3d printing. So, yes. Twitter trend and online social media crowd source hashtag."

  • 3D printing, while conceptually cool, has a long way to go before it's commonly used in a Tesco. The people propping this story up were probably early purveyors for the flying car concept, and can you just imagine the same idiots you see on the road everyday flying?

    I'm still waiting for the first story on "3D printing lung" from breathing PLA dust.

    If you can't see where this is heading...

  • So I think 3D printing is cool and all that, and there's lots of value for some people, but as a 46-year old dad of two kids who is frequently at the supermarket, I struggle to figure out what I would need to 3D print.

    I'm Canadian, so not interested in printing a gun, what else is there? What does a typical family need to 3D print these days?
    • I could print on cakes as a teen. The obvious thing that never happened was having them print out those sugar statues to decorate the cake with.

      I'm surprised somebody doesn't have sugar printers since those would have been easier to do way before these early plastic melting ones came out.

      It's extravagant, but an in store printer would make it affordable enough people could be using it (at least initially with a catalog of shapes- but today you could scan a person or shape in the store.)

      Dolls? (aka toy sold

      • by compro01 (777531)

        I could print on cakes as a teen. The obvious thing that never happened was having them print out those sugar statues to decorate the cake with.

        I'm surprised somebody doesn't have sugar printers since those would have been easier to do way before these early plastic melting ones came out.

        They do.

        Check out some of the stuff these guys made [the-sugar-lab.com]. They just recently got bought up by 3D Systems.

    • So I think 3D printing is cool and all that, and there's lots of value for some people, but as a 46-year old dad of two kids who is frequently at the supermarket, I struggle to figure out what I would need to 3D print.

      I'm Canadian, so not interested in printing a gun, what else is there? What does a typical family need to 3D print these days?

      Those dinky little plastic parts that break all the time. If you have kids, especially younger ones, then you know just how weak some plastic things are.

      There are a couple things keeping 3d printers from being used much more extensively. First, the cost of the printer itself. Second, the accuracy of the cheaper printers. Third, the cost of printing materials. Fourth, the slowness of most 3d printers. Finally, the time required to learn and use the software.

      Stores offering 3d printing can buy more expe

      • Those dinky little plastic parts that break all the time. If you have kids, especially younger ones, then you know just how weak some plastic things are.

        And then when the 3D printed one breaks (which it will because something made of separate blobs will generally be weaker than something made in one piece) you can go back next week and print another one.

        What a business model! It's just like razor blades.

        • Maybe, but if they're cheap enough you can just buy them in bulk and not worry about it. Though it would be cool if they then gave me the cad file so I could have it printed out of metal or whatever I wanted.

          On the store's side, a razor blade model isn't a bad one. I mean, people keep buying those crappy inkjet printers, instead of investing in a good color laser.

          • You can't just take a design intended for plastic and make it in metal. Well you can, but it probably won't work, or not very well.

            The form of an object and the material it's made from are intrinsically linked.

    • by compro01 (777531)

      Parts.

      Your son breaks the arm on your daughter's favourite doll? Scan the pieces, reassemble it in the model editor, print it, stick the new arm on, and the doll is good as new.

      Some little button or knob on something breaks? Do the same.

      Into classic cars? Need some unobtainium part? Model it up or scan the existing broken one and print it, either for direct use or for making a mold. Jay Leno has been raving for years about how awesome 3D printing is replacing for obscure parts. [popularmechanics.com]

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:08PM (#44973831)

    I remember sending my first email over a modem in the early 80's. By the time I was in college 10 years later Usenet, BBS'es, MUDs, and the like were old hat to me, but the general public had no real use for computers and even many of my classmates still used actual typewriters to write their papers. It wasn't until the Dot-Com era was in full swing that the general public started to pay attention to computers and the Internet. Even then, though, many people of my generation and older smirked to refer to themselves as "Roadkill on the Information Superhighway." That only really disappeared around 2005 when social media started to take off.

    So the point is, from the perspective of the general public there is a significant lag between when a transformative technology changes the world and when your average Joe wakes up to the fact that a revolution has already happened. I suspect it will be much the same with 3D printing, and the other significant, significant technologies that are birthing now such as wearable computing or implantable electronics, RFID or the "Internet of Things."

    However in this case the real transformation is not technical, but psycho-social. Getting people to transform from the brain-dead, passive consumers they've been conditioned to be the past 100 years to the self-directed, creative makers 3D printing and these other technologies will enable them to be (at a lower barrier to entry than before, naturally), will take a lot longer than the 30 years it's taken the Information Revolution to get truly underway. That does mean early adopters will enjoy a significant, significant competitive advantage for a generation because now more than ever they can talk to other like minds via the Internet and multiply their native talents. And, now more than ever, they can say who gives a shit if Joe Sixpack next door doesn't get it? I can run circles around him before he even knows there's a race on.

    Amid the totalitarian shadow of the NSA and the counter-revolutionary tendencies of the Powers-That-Be, it's the one thing that gives me hope for the future.

  • by nurb432 (527695)

    Not saying that food cant be printed, but it opens up an entire new problem with health regulations.

  • I can just imagine all the dildoes thiese things will be printing up.

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