In the following video, 3D printing specialist Steve Heller reports from EuroMold 2014, the world's largest 3D printing conference held in Frankfurt, Germany, in front of one of many 3D printed selfie booths strategically placed throughout the exhibition. Companies are hoping to cash in on the potential rise of the 3D printed selfie by selling the scanning booths and 3D printing services around it. However, the 3D printed selfie doesn't necessarily come cheap to consumers, costing upwards of $200 for a 3D printed figurine of yourself or loved one -- not exactly in the "impulse buy" category.
In Heller's opinion, the price of the 3D printed selfie would have to reach an impulse buy level, falling by around an order of magnitude, otherwise it risks never catching on in a mainstream way.
A full transcript follows the video.
Steve Heller: Hey Fools, Steve Heller here. We are at EuroMold 2014, outside of Hall 11 [the 3D printing hall]. This is the 3D printing conference of the world. We're in Frankfurt, Germany.
What we're looking at behind me is the 3D printed selfie [booth]. Is that actually something that's going to take off with consumers? To be determined; we'll get to that in a second.
What is actually happening here, there are a number of different vendors that are selling these arrays that you see behind me where someone steps into the booth, they get a 3D scan of themselves. That scanned file then goes and gets sent off to a 3D printing service center, so they do all the heavy lifting on the 3D printing side.
They typically use 3D Systems' ColorJet technology, which is a full-color, powder based material that allows 3D printed selfies to basically come to life. The problem with the technology is, it's pretty expensive [when used for a 3D printed selfie]. We're talking $50-$100, upwards of $200, per 3D printed selfie depending on the size and the shipping costs, and how soon you want it and everything.
They're [company's] trying to sell their 3D scanning arrays. The challenge with it is, though, who's going to buy this? You obviously need a professional at this point. It's not necessarily an easy operation. It's not push-button operated [yet] for consumers.
Just thinking about the 3D printed selfie in the age of Instagram and the age of Facebook, Twitter, and the selfie, the print photography industry is in a little bit of a decline right now. I spoke earlier with Conor MacCormack, CEO of Mcor Technologies, and they hope to bring a little bit more of a unique perspective on the 3D printed selfie.
They want it so that everyday users can actually scan themselves with a pretty cheap device, either at a place or on their own -- they could have their own scanner -- and then they want to be able to print a 3D printed selfie, say for $30.
The way they can do that is the operating cost of their machines is much lower because they use a paper-based technology -- ordinary copy paper, which can be five times cheaper than other full-color technologies [like 3D Systems' ColorJet technology].
Basically, that lowers the barrier of entry for the 3D printed selfie to actually make more of a splash and more of a meaningful impact for consumers.
As you can see behind me now, it looks like they're getting ready to start a scan here.
The other interesting thing to think about here is that this scanning array is not necessarily small. If you're going to go to a retailer [to try and sell a 3D selfie booth] or you're a retailer and you're thinking about implementing this, there actually has to be enough revenue there, because retail floor space comes at a premium.
If they're not able to generate enough revenue off it [3D printed selifes], that means that they're going to have to replace that sale with something else. Basically, if that floor space isn't being utilized properly on a revenue basis, it may not be the best fit for retailers to actually adopt it.
Getting [the 3D printed selfie to gain traction with consumers] is all about lowering the cost, to make it more of an impulse buy. At $200 for a 3D printed selfie people may think twice about it, but if it's $20 or $30, there may be a completely different outcome on it.
Thanks for watching, and Fool on!
Steve Heller owns shares of 3D Systems, Facebook, and Twitter. He isn't banking on the 3D-printed selfie becoming a major part of 3D Systems' business. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems, Facebook, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems, Facebook, and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.