Staples Introduces 3-D Printing On Demand, In Europe

Need a quick holiday gift or a replacement part for a project? Head down to Staples and print one out.

This week, the office-supply chain announced plans to install on-demand 3-D printers in its European stores, bringing the technology one step closer to ubiquity. “Given our market leadership in commercial print, why would we ever stop at two dimensions?” said Staples Europe honcho Wouter Van Dijk.

The service, which will roll out in Belgium and Holland in January, won’t exactly be self-serve. Rather, customers will be able to send their model file to the store in advance, where an employee will do the actual printing. Then, they can pick up the final result in-store or have it shipped.

The most intriguing part of the announcement is the company Staples has chosen to partner with: Mcor Technologies, the eight-year-old Irish makers of the only 3-D printer that uses your average, run-of-the-mill printer paper to create 3-D models. The company’s Iris printers fabricate models by cutting them from a ream of paper, after which they’re colored and glued together. The letter (or A4) size paper Iris machines use is much less expensive than the materials needed for conventional 3-D printers. The catch? It’s not as strong.

But the printer resolution is quite high, given that it cuts models from sheets of paper which are only a few thousandths of an inch thick. Just take a peek at the hyper-realistic (and terrifying) 3-D printed human face Mcor and Staples are showing off as part of the announcement.

Staples has plans to expand the on-demand service to the rest of its European market next spring. No word on roughly how expensive the service will be, or when (or if) it’ll migrate to the U.S. market.