Walmart’s UK subsidiary Asda trials 3D scanning and printing

Talk about going mainstream – Walmart(s wmt)’s British subsidiary, Asda, is about to start trialling 3D scanning and printing. Next week, an Asda supermarket in York will offer its customers the chance to be scanned, digitally modelled and turned into an 8-inch ceramic figurine.

It’s being touted as an experience that occurs “while you’re doing your weekly shop,” though in reality the digital model is sent off elsewhere for 3D printing, which is a fairly slow technology. That means customers need to pick it up a week later.

The scanning process only takes two minutes though and, judging from this video, it employs the Artec Eva handheld scanner:


The models, Asda said, can be made in white, bronze color, or full color. Prices start at £40 ($64), which seems reasonable for a trial. It will certainly be enough to tempt a few shoppers, considering that the quality of the end product appears (from the promotional material) to be quite impressive.

With 3D scanning becoming affordable – and perhaps ubiquitous in the coming years – chains such as Walmart/Asda (or UPS(s ups), or whoever) could profit hugely from the flipside, 3D printing.

After all, these chains will enjoy much greater economy of scale on materials than the home hobbyist can achieve, and it will be easier for them to offer a diverse range of materials. Technicians who know what they’re doing will also be a boon when it comes to maintaining quality – a big issue when we start to talk about printing spare parts, for example. Though I suspect local printing collectives might also play a part, we are certainly witnessing the early rumblings of a new industry.