MakerBot, perhaps the most well-known name in 3D printing, is looking to creep its way into the mainstream with a little help from a partner you might have heard of -- Microsoft.
At its BUILD conference earlier this summer, Microsoft demonstrated a 3D printer driver for Windows 8.1 and announced that the MakerBot Replicator 2 desktop 3D printer would be on sale at a few Microsoft stores in Seattle and California. Today, both companies announced the experiment will be expanded beyond the West Coast, adding the "MakerBot Experience" in-store demonstration to 15 more Microsoft stores across the country.
"We're thrilled to offer the MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer and our MakerBot PLA Filament in Microsoft Stores. We've seen tremendous interest and enthusiasm at the three initial 'MakerBot Experience' stores," said Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot in a press release.
Certainly this makes it a little easier for anyone to run to the mall and come home with the means of printing out a new Game of Thrones-themed chess set, but putting something on display in a Microsoft store doesn't necessarily mean it will become a hot item. Two cases in point: the Microsoft Surface and a number of you reading this and asking yourselves: "What's a Microsoft store?"
But the expectations here probably are not to create an overnight sensation that has all the geeky kids on the block demanding MakerBots for the holidays. MakerBot describes its 4th generation 3D printer as a tool "for making professional-quality models and prototypes." Not exactly a stocking stuffer.
The main benefit of getting more 3D printers into more malls might not necessarily be to sell them, but to give more of us consumers firsthand experiences with the technology. Microsoft and MakerBot are looking to recruit an army for the 3D printing revolution.
"3D printing is a significant technological innovation, and we want all our customers to experience it firsthand, to learn how they can use and benefit from it in their own lives," said David McAughan, chief operating officer for Microsoft retail stores, in a statement.
If Pettis and McAughan are right, perhaps what starts today with some curious civilians in shopping malls will become a full-blown movement of people home-printing their own casts -- or tarantulas or Aston Martins, for that matter.