Home Depot is teaming up with MakerBot to push additive manufacturing technology further into the mainstream. Yesterday, the pair announced a partnership to sell MakerBot’s Replicator line of 3D printers in 12 Home Depot stores in California, Illinois, and New York. Now available, the printers are demonstrated and sold by trained MakerBot retail staff at dedicated kiosks (shown). Though the home-improvement retailer—the world’s largest, with $78.8 billion in revenues in 2013—began offering MakerBots online earlier this year, this is its first attempt at brick-and-mortar sales. The program is a pilot for both companies to determine how the still-nascent technology holds up in consumer retail.
“Mom, dad, contractors, interior designers—we’re looking forward to blowing their minds and making them MakerBot lovers,” MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis told Bloomberg. Whether they’ll bite and begin to use the equipment to produce the parts they’d otherwise purchase at Home Depot is yet to be determined, Pettis said. Still, it’s unlikely any gains from new sales of 3D printers and materials will take share from the company’s conventional repair-and-replacement business. Consumer printers’ small printer beds, limited extrusion materials, and learning curve to use are all factors affecting their uptake. A coordinated effort between the two companies to bring the technology to consumers, however, is one way to test its long-term market potential.