London’s grand opening of iMakr, the world’s largest 3D printing store, has been built up by the internet to bursting point, so it was no great surprise that it was a bit of a damp squib.
For those expecting a massive old warehouse space converted into the equivalent of a modern PC World for 3D printing equipment, you would be wrong: The now standard, poncy, minimalist, gallery layout with a scattering of different machines was what you got, and sadly, little else.
Admittedly its early days; its nice webstore offers a choice of 10 different desktop printers and various add-ons, and provides an exciting retail opportunity for people who want to sell their own 3D printed creations in the Capital.
However, given the concept of having a 3D printing store, it seems to fail on several levels.
A few people said they were disappointed that it wasn’t really a ‘store’ at all – there were no prices on anything – and it simply offered the usually array of low-end 3D printers with some 3D printed jewellery and mobile phone cases dotted around for good measure. The space wasn’t filled nearly enough.
The most productive of such stores is MakerBot’s own space in Lower Manhattan, New York. Although not the busiest of shopping streets in the Big Apple, its window displays draw in attention, and its small, cosy interior is a hive of inspiration, a place to enchant people with the technology up close.
Being stuck at the end of London’s diamond and jewellery heartland is hardly the best location for those with a casual interest. Once inside, the machines are positioned as remote artworks distancing the customer from something they’re meant to be getting to grips with.
As ever, there were lots of people standing around, amazed to see a 3D printer in action, which makes you feel positive that the technology might cause wholehearted interest. Yet for anyone with a smattering of previous insight, it seems unlikely it will become the heartbeat of change in London.