3-D printers become more affordable as big retailers fill their shelves

JIJI

Novel printers used to make solid three-dimensional objects are becoming more affordable to general consumers as retailers begin to stock lower-priced models.

Retailers Bic Camera Inc. and Yamada Denki Co. started selling 3-D printers for under ¥200,000 this summer. On display are U.S. printers that can make objects up to 15 cm high, wide and deep. A Bic Camera official said many shoppers visit just “to see what 3-D printers look like.”

The printers extrude heated molten resin through fine computer-controlled nozzles to build objects based on digital blueprints.

In Japan, more companies are using 3-D printers, mainly to create trial product models. As relatively affordable models hit the market, the novel equipment is also starting to catch on with general consumers.

Until now, 3-D printers had been sold mainly online. With big retailers stepping in, however, the 3-D printer market is likely to take off, according to Ichiro Michikoshi, analyst at market researcher BCN Inc. The entry of big retailers “will be a big catalyst in accelerating the spread of 3-D printers,” he said. “They will be used for a variety of purposes, including do-it-yourself activities.”

U.S. makers Stratasys Ltd. and 3D Systems Inc. dominate the global 3-D printer market.